Monday, October 20, 2008

Sounds of the River by Da Chen

Colors of the mountain will never leave our door
Sounds of the river will linger forever in our ears.

-- a couplet painted on the door of the old Chen house

I read Colors of the Mountain late last year. I liked it so much that I gave the book to my brother for Christmas, knowing that he too would enjoy it. I told him that the book was great but also informed him that when he came to the end, he would feel like the story was not over. (I ended my review of the book by stating much the same thing.) However, my brother is much smarter than I am. After he finished the book, he looked to see if Da Chen wrote another.

Sounds of the River literally picks up right where Colors of the Mountain left off. Da is getting ready to leave Yellow Stone to go to college in Beijing. This a dream come to for Da and his family. Little does he know that corrupt teachers, suicidal roommates, and poor living conditions await his arrival in Beijing. But the same dogged determination that got Da into college helps him to survive and even prevail. He become a voracious student of the English language, going from the bottom of his class to the very top. His knowledge of English lands him a sidejob as an interpreter for the Sports Ministry. A couple of chapters are devoted to the time Da spent as a translator and guide to a group of NBA stars touring China. Da's dealing with the NBA stars is hilarious, especially his interactions with Kareem Abdul Jabbar.

With Sounds of the River, Da Chen strikes the same balance as he did with his first book. He candidly describes his time in Beijing, with both poignance and humor. Da grapples with love, death, and religion, causing this book to strike a more mature tone than Colors of the Mountain. Sounds of the River ends with Da preparing to go to America, leaving me feeling much the same way that I did when I finished the first book. This time I checked, but unfortunately there is no third book. Hopefully Da is working on it.


Christopher said...

Did you know that your Man Without a Country review is linked at Wikipedia?

Carlton Farmer said...

Ha. That is hilarious. Weird.