Thursday, January 24, 2008

Fiction: China Run

I just finished reading my book group’s latest selection, China Run by David Ball, and my initial reaction is, “What an amazing book.” With its unique plot, likeable characters, and intense suspense, this book gripped me in a way that I haven’t experienced in a long time. I struggled to put the book down each night at bedtime and often ended up dreaming of it during the night!

Six American families are in China for the final stage of their adoption of Chinese baby girls. As they await their babies’ visas, each family has bonded with its baby for several days when they receive word from the orphanage director that a mistake has been made. They are told they received the wrong babies and must return them immediately. Distressed and confused, three of the families comply with the request, but the other three parents feel they can’t give up their new family members and instead take off on their own for the nearest American embassy, hoping to resolve the mix-up.

That hasty decision turns into a nightmare as the three families flee from Chinese authorities and end up in a dangerous and complicated journey across the cities and countryside of China. The main character, Allison, is one of the parents who chose to run, along with her new Chinese baby and her nine-year old stepson. A massive manhunt ensues, with the whole world watching, as Allison tries desperately to keep her children safe and ensure that her baby won’t be taken away.

Along the way, they meet many Chinese citizens – some helpful and some sinister – as they try to thwart the enormous web of authorities that are after them. Meanwhile, one of the police investigators begins to uncover a terrible secret behind the orphanage and the error that initiated this situation.

Ball describes the sights, sounds, and smells of China so that you feel you are right there with Allison, on the run in an unfamiliar land and surrounded by a language and culture you don’t understand. We see the beauty of China’s landscapes and the qualities of its people and feel the terror of being alone in a foreign place.

At turns thought-provoking, terrifying, and touching, this intriguing and suspenseful novel will keep you reading late into the night.