Book Review: The Dark Road by Ma Jian “China’s One Child Policy”

July 23, 2014 § Leave a comment

Title: The Dark Road | Author: Ma Jian
Series: Stand alone | Genre: Drama, Asian Literature
Format: Paperback | Date Finished: July 17, 2014
Rating: 3 Cups of Coffee

“If a panda gets pregnant, the entire nation celebrates. But if a woman gets pregnant she’s treated like a criminal. What kind of country is this?”

Meili, a young peasant woman is married to Kongzi, a village school teacher, and a distant descendant of the great sage Confucius. They have a daughter, but desperate to carry on his illustrious line, Kongzi gets Meili pregnant without waiting for official permission. When family planning officers storm into the village to arrest violators of the population control policy, mother, father and daughter are forced to make a fugitive life on the river. Meili dreams of reaching a place called Heaven, a vast stinking wilderness of toxic waste, where the men eventually turn infertile and the family planning officers don’t dare to go. But as their troubled quest to give birth to a son continues, it becomes clear that Kongzi and Meili are not just raging against the state – they are at war with one another. –Goodreads

My Review

Provocative, alarming, and distressing. China’s “One Child Policy” was established by Chinese leader Deng Xioping in 1879 to limit communist China population growth. Being raised in a big family with my eight siblings, I can’t really imagine what it is like to live under such a policy. The Dark Road gave me an insight of this abusive policy through the hard life of Meili and Kongzi’s family. They have a lovely daughter Nannan, but Kongzi is dying for a son. So he gets Meili pregnant for a  second child and then the sequence of  horrific tragedies are shadowing their life. The forced abortion, prostitution and rape, economic and social oppression, child-selling and kidnapping, child beggars syndicate, all of these are not easy to digest. But kudos to Ma Jian for his explanatory and well-researched writing, I can get the feeling of how terrible life is under such a cruel policy.

For the characters development, the author did a good job and I am so happy that at several points of time he introduced new characters with positives impacts to the whole subject matter. Throughout the story, I can’t help but feel sorry for Meili and little Nannan and can’t hide my hatred towards Kongzi for his selfishness and ego. Despite everything happened Meili is a very loyal wife and loving mother. When she expresses her true feeling and talk about her dreams and ambition, I am cheering for her through and through. Nannan also a very bright and sweet little girl. I love her so much. But Kongzi? He’s so stubborn and kind of ruins everything.

I have rated this book 2 cups of coffee at first but give better thought about it. So it gets an extra cups of coffee at the end. I liked this book for it’s important premise but I don’t really like it in several aspects, you know, because this kind of book with a heavy and troubling subject can be boring a times and the ending is not in a way I like it.  But I am so glad that I read The Dark Road as it opens up your mind towards certain difficult issues which is related to the real life. If you love dark, provocative, and openly confrontational novel, this is definitely for you.

 

 

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