Starry River of the Sky: Book Review

November 13th, 2012 by

starry-river-of-the-sky-book-reviewI have a very important tip for you: the next time you have a cross-country flight and you’re looking for the perfect book to keep you entertained — make you chuckle, make your eyes well up with tears, make the time pass ridiculously quickly — choose Starry River of the Sky by Grace Lin.

Of course, it’s always a risk to pack just one book for a long plane ride because what if you hate it from the first chapter and you’re stuck reading the Skymall magazine in your seatback pocket instead? Not to worry, in this case! I started reading the book as we sat on the runway and I was hooked right away. And once I started, I read it straight through until I finished. I couldn’t even put it down during the take-off when I usually close my eyes because I get a headache from the plane going at an angle!

The book tells the story of Rendi, a runaway boy who gets stuck in a teeny village, working alongside a family that owns the local inn. While he plots his departure, he gets to know the village residents and the mysterious woman staying at the inn — and so do you. And you’ll probably get to wondering: Could they all be connected to the fact that the moon is missing and the sky seems to cry? What in their history is coming back to haunt them? What secrets are they hiding? And what are they revealing in the stories they tell to pass the time?

Variations on Chinese folk tales play a big role in this book, but the story never feels dull OR overly fantastical. There’s an element of magic, but it’s really a story about the human heart — and how one boy changes the lives of everyone in the town.

So, what makes this book so good? That’s actually kind of hard to explain, because the book is a quiet sort of book and sneaks up on you. Maybe that’s part of it — it’s not loud and big and in-your-face, so it affects you in a much gentler way. Since I lurve food, I’d say it’s like a complex blended soup: comforting and easy to eat, but the more you consume, the more you start tasting and enjoying all the hidden flavors from the ingredients you can’t see.

If you’ve already read the book, leave a comment and let me know! Or have you read Grace Lin’s companion book, Where the Mountain Meets the Moon? It’s totally going on my to-read list!

— Karen

Review copy from the publisher.

Having grown up with some Chinese folk tales, Karen recognized some of the characters as she read. Makes her want to rediscover even more!

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