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I don’t know nearly enough about Taiwan and its complicated history, which fact swiftly became apparent as I read Green Island. Ryan’s novel covers a sweeping number of years, focusing on the ripple effects within one family of the father’s decade-long imprisonment by Chinese nationalists. His family assumes he is dead, and his youngest daughter, our main character, can’t even remember what her father looked like because she was an infant when he was taken away. Imagine the tectonic shift that occurs when he arrives back home years later, a changed man integrating back into a changed family.

Her father isn’t the only one with political ideals to uphold. The narrator, once grown, and her husband also find themselves drawn into a dangerous web of secret meetings and risky alliances. I wish I had read more non-fiction on this topic before reading Green Island, so I could have felt the weight of the suspense more keenly. The main character is so quiet and reflective, her narration so understated, some of the impact was lost on me. If I’d had a better grasp on the historical foundation beforehand, I might not have wished for someone to come in with a megaphone all like “THIS PART IS SCARY” or “THAT RIGHT THERE IS SUPER SIGNIFICANT.”

Bottom line for me: more research needed.