August 21, 2013
The Scavenger's Daughters by Kay Bratt
I know this is fiction, but a part of me wants it to be real life. If only for the girls that Benfu and his wife take in. But even being fiction, it does have a lot of truth to it, and I think that's what makes this such a great book. And even better, this is the first in a series, so there will be more of it to enjoy eventually.
Benfu survived China's Cultural Revolution, mainly in part to being rescued by his wife's family after collapsing near their home. Now, many years later, he and his wife have over twenty daughters. All of them a result of having been found while Benfu was at his job scavenging. Often, when a child has a disability or is a girl, they will be abandoned in China. And Benfu and his wife share what little they have with their foundlings. But they're not as young as they used to be, and it's becoming harder to make ends meet.
Benfu and his wife are both wonderful characters. But Benfu gets more time than Calla Lily. She just doesn't feature as much and it appears that this is Benfu's story to tell. To a lesser extent it is also Linnea's, one of his foundling daughters. She features quite a bit in the book and she is as headstrong as Benfu believes her to be. But they both just want good for their family. Linnea has a boyfriend named Jet, and he was quite wonderful. So good in fact that I kept waiting for the author to make something horrible happen to spoil him, because it's hard to have a character that good without causing strife somehow. And of course the other daughters all have their own personalities, but they play smaller roles in this book too.
The whole subject is a sensitive one. It is true that many children are abandoned in China, even in the present time. And more often than not, they are girls. To have a character set in China, that cares about these girls and takes them in is automatically endearing. And shows that there are good people in the world right where there are bad ones too. The story was engrossing, you wanted to find out what would happen with Benfu and his daughters. But as the book went along new things kept getting added and didn't quite mesh with the original storyline. For big topics to be introduced midway through the story and the character referencing it then, but not in the beginning, it was a bit distracting. A few mentions or hints in the beginning of the book would have helped tie certain plot lines together. But really, this was a well written book for the most part.
If you're interested in China, or a story about a group of people doing the best they can, then this is going to be a good book for you. It shows the resilience of the human spirit and the compassion that people feel for one another. I'm looking forward to the next book in the series.
The Scavenger's Daughters