This collection includes 12 stories, all speaking about life in 1980’s Harbin, China. The context of the stories is well handled, and enough background is woven into the stories to give the reader unfamiliar with Chinese history and idea of the societal backdrop of the time. There were only one bit of language in the book that loses its meaning for the non-Chinese speaker. I find that universal grace of Ha Jin’s writing very refreshing.
The stories are all dark, and deeply sad or unfortunate in one way or another. Of the stories, while I particularly enjoyed “The Bridegroom,” my favorites were “In The Kindergarten” and “After Cowboy Chicken Came to Town.”