I have thoroughly enjoyed being part of Kay Bratt's book review team for the last couple years. We even have our own snazzy name - she calls us "Kay's Review Krew." So when I was contacted about reading and reviewing another book connected to her series called The Scavenger's Daughters, I was ELATED. It's available THIS WEEK for purchase and I highly encourage you to rush right over to Amazon and get your copy now.
The Palest Ink is a pre-quel that expertly peels back the layers to the father figure from The Scavenger's Daughters, Benfu. Each chapter gives the reader another peek into the character of the man who dedicates his whole adult life to investing in the treasured daughters whom he finds and brings to his home. The experiences of his life BEFORE he became The Scavenger are woven together in this book in such a way that the reader can say, "Oh, that is why he understands the plight of loneliness so well." The reader FEELS the sense of isolation and other-ing that his daughters grapple with in the other books, when reading of the solitary confinement he experiences in his re-training camp. That sense of "coming home" that happens when his daughters bloom and grow under his and Callie's care is rooted in this book's unfolding of the deep contentment and connected-ness they find together as Callie nurses him to health after he escaped his brutal living conditions. All of the things that happened to him, that formed his convictions and his principles that we see as the benevolent and loving father are deeply established as a response to the life changes that were thrust upon him as a young man during the Cultural Revolution. I completely appreciated and enjoyed how well Kay wove those themes together and tied them up so neatly, as she reached back to "flesh out" this character that I grew to love in The Scavenger's Daughters series.
In addition to weaving Benfu's past so expertly for the reader to understand his future more deeply, Kay did a wonderful job of detailing the harsh realities of the early days of the Cultural Revolution in ways that were both honoring to the Chinese people and educational to the reader. I was always very interested in this particular era of world events and did a lot of reading as a student but it was thrilling to this self-proclaimed history geek to learn more and to put "faces" to the events about which I had learned. I loved learning, via this fictional medium, more about the thoughts and feelings of those who embraced Chairman Mao's ways and about those who were leery of the changes he brought. In particular, I found the elimination of creative expression, poetry, fine arts and music to be far more difficult to imagine as I read this story than even when I was learning about it in school. It's more personal to me now, given that I'm parenting two beautiful creative little girls who are similar to many of the characters about whom Kay writes. To think that they might have lived like that makes this story all the more poignant. Truly, to me, it makes all of these books that Kay has crafted more meaningful and poignant.
If you haven't read the other books of The Scavenger's Daughters series, you ought to purchase them all when you go buy The Palest Ink. Then settle in with a warm blanket and spend your cold winter evenings immersed in the beautiful world of Benfu and Callie. You won't regret it for a minute!!!!!
**I was given a complimentary copy
of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review.**