Sky Burial by Xinran
Wow! What a beautiful sense of place. Sky Burial tells the story of Shu Wen, a woman who desperately seeks answers about her new husband’s death. Given no details by the government, Shu Wen feels she must know the truth of what has happened to him. Seeing no other way to find the answers she seeks, she joins the military (as a doctor) so she can be stationed in Tibet, where the death is reported to have taken place.
Due to Chinese/Tibetan conflict, she is separated from her unit and eventually spends over 30 years in Tibet, learning the language and the culture. Very different from the Chinese, the Tibetans are a deeply religious, nomadic people. Their family life seems strange to Shu Wen also. The family that takes her in is a wife with two husbands (brothers — who also do the sewing!). Finally, after three decades, the family is able to help her in her quest for answers about her husband.
What makes this all the more interesting is that this book is based on an actual woman that Xinran met and spoke to about these experiences. My only downgrade to the book is that after reaching the end, it felt a little unfinished. I felt that I wanted to know more about what happened to Shu Wen. Xinran did as well, and in the afterword she writes her a letter desiring contact, but I don’t believe the author ever heard from her again.
2004 (2005 for the English translation); 224 pp.