Invisible Orphans chronicles the years of one woman’s life and her experiences. From being a kindergarten teacher to learning about farming to understanding mental illness, Vivi must navigate her life through the most challenging of events. Growing up in Macau, China, Vivi decides that she would like to visit the island of Hainan. There she meets an American ex-pat named Matthew. Vivi learns that Matthew is an English teacher at Shaanxi Normal University in China and has only been in China for a few months, yet he speaks Mandarin fairly well. Vivi soon discovers that Matthew’s real love is trees and all living plants.
The story brings its reader through the courtship of Vivi and Matthew, and eventually, they marry. I really enjoyed the descriptions of the beautiful scenery in China. The author does a wonderful job of describing the Yangtze River and the immense mountains and large gorges that surround it.
As the story progresses, the reader learns more about Matthew and his family. Matthew grew up in Oregon with his older brother Jerry. Their mother, Rachel, had committed suicide when the boys were very little, and they were raised by their Grandma Dori. Their father, Damon, had remarried and had two more boys. He paid little mind to Matthew and Jerry.
I really felt the family dynamics of Matthew’s family were quite sad. Although Matthew and Jerry had a wonderful grandmother, aunt, and uncle who raised them and a cousin to play with, there really was not too much parental guidance. Both Jerry and Matthew end up in very sad predicaments. Matthew’s mental health deteriorates, and Vivi is left picking up the pieces.
One of the things I had a hard time with while reading this book is that the story would skip timelines. One minute Vivi was trying to deal with Matthew’s absence, and then she would have a flashback, and a story about her and Matthew would be told. This made the book a bit difficult to follow. There are also many side characters that both Vivi and Matthew meet, such as mentors, friends, and support group members. The stories would often go on a tangent before getting back to the main story about Vivi and Matthew’s lives. I felt the story was a powerful one that will evoke many emotions in its readers. I would have loved the book to have read a bit more smoothly in terms of chronology, however.
Invisible Orphans is a heartfelt story that will make its readers think about life and the good and bad we all experience.
|Jade Moon Le
|Rare Bird Book
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