I’m going to lead with this: I give this book a 10. Why? It’s unusual in that it reads like a fairy tale. It has characters that you like and a love story about two kindred spirits that share an unconditional love. And to top it off it’s a debut novel that was originally written in German.
The novel is told from the perspective of Julia, a NYC native who is both angry and surprised when her father disappears without a trace. She finds a love letter he’d written many years ago to a woman in Burma and with that in hand, sets out to find him and solve the mystery.
As a young child, Julia recalls that her father never spoke of the first 20 years of his life and during her journey to Burma she pieces together his story through a stranger she meets in a coffee shop. Over the course of several days, she becomes friends with this man, U Ba, as he tells her the remarkable story of her father’s first 20 years.
The majority of the book is the story of her father’s early life in Burma and like the setting, the story has a magical quality. The prose and descriptions read almost like a fairy tale which make the incredible story of Julia’s father, Tin Win, believable.
U Ba, tells Julia of two hardships her father encountered that changed his life. He also tells her of the woman who captured his heart. At it’s core this is the story of Tin Win and his young love, Mi Mi. The author does an amazing job of putting you right in the center of this book so that you cannot help but cheer for Tin Win and Mi Mi to stay together despite the many hardships in front of them.
I won’t spoil the ending other than to say that it will not leave you disappointed. As I read this book and got more into these characters I couldn’t help but wonder how the writer would end this novel. It seemed to me that he may have “written himself” into a corner in such a way that I could not imagine how he could pull off a “happy ending”. Though this is his debut novel, he proves he is a true talent and manages to end the story in a believable way. If you are in the mood for a truly unique novel that takes you out of your normal genre, read this one.