Three Souls

February 26, 2014 Fantasy, Fiction, Historical Fiction 10

Three SoulsTitle: Three Souls
Author: Janie Chang
Source: from publisher for TLC book tour
Rating: ★★★★☆
Review Summary: This was a beautiful, thoughtful book with a creative, new to me mythology and a vibrant setting.

Despite being a ghost, Leiyin has a lot to accomplish. To learn why she hasn’t moved on to the afterlife, she has to relive her memories of a life she’s forgotten in death. Along the way, her three souls (valuing duty, love, and wisdom) will help her achieve understanding. As she learns when she relives her life, a selfish decision made in the pursuit of romance led to her punishment with a hastily arranged marriage. These events started her on the path towards her death. However, she left behind a daughter she loved dearly and who she’s willing to protect at any cost – even if that means being stuck in limbo forever. (I’m not sure my description did this wonderful, complex book justice, so you might also check out the goodreads description. )

Not only is this book set in China, it’s set in the 1920’s and 1930’s, a time period during which I know next to nothing about China. As a result, I particularly enjoyed discovering the incredible events shaking Chinese society during this time period. The author did a spectacular job bringing the culture, the society, and the political atmosphere to life. The relationship of personal events to political ones gave the bigger issues a face and made them all the more affecting. The mythology the author created sounded vaguely familiar, but was almost completely new to me. From the reader’s guide, it sounds as though this is indeed a new take on an old mythology and I loved the author’s version.

The way the author chose to tell the story was also unique. The first half of the book is spent learning about Leiyin’s life. Her ghostly commentary truly added to the story, making her younger and sometimes more foolish self sympathetic through her ghostly self’s explanations. The souls’ different perspectives on her actions encouraged the reader to think about all sides of every issue. One of the few things I didn’t like about the book were a few decisions she made which even her ghost’s explanation couldn’t make me sympathize with. I especially disliked that these choices led to a sudden and rather pointless end to her life. The ending to the book was similarly abrupt. I did, however, love the parallels of her life to Anna Karenina and the author’s references to that book. I always enjoy literary references to books I love! At the end, I appreciated that  Leiyin was able to influence events, despite being a ghost. I dislike characters who lack agency, but that wasn’t a concern here. Despite the abrupt endings, I found this a beautiful and thought-provoking read. Perfect for book clubs.

For some other perspectives, check out the other stops on the tourAmazon, or Goodreads.


10 Responses to “Three Souls”

    • DoingDewey

      I love the cover too! I think it’s a bit haunting so it’s perfect for a book with a ghostly protagonist 🙂 I don’t think I’ve read many books set in China either and none in this time period, which includes some important world events I knew nothing about. I really liked that this meant that the book taught me things in a very memorable way, in addition to being a fun read.

    • DoingDewey

      It was really an enjoyable read! The writing was beautiful and it’s hard not to like a protagonist who reads 🙂 I loved that the main character was reading Anna Karenina, because it made me pay attention to the ways her life paralleled Anna’s.

    • DoingDewey

      Book references are just so much fun! If a character loves a book I love, it makes it easier for me to feel connected to that character. And if the story references a book I’ve read, I feel like I’m in on a secret. I love it 🙂 Thanks for having me on the tour!

  1. Man of la Book

    I actually liked the abruptness of things that happen in the book, isn’t that life?
    Everything could change in a second and not all of us are destined for a glorious death.

    I’m glad you liked the book, I liked it also ( and while we have a little difference in opinion, I believe we agree on the overall premise of the book.

    • DoingDewey

      You make a good point! I also felt like it was realistic that things happened abruptly. It occasionally occurs to me that the relationships between characters or the events they experience seem insanely coincidental and I always rationalize it by remembering that of course authors are going to write about connected characters or characters who make a huge difference in the course of events. But there is something refreshing about an author writing a more believable story 🙂