Roy begins her tale just before the birth of its protagonist, Yezi, during the Cultural Revolution in Mao’s China. From the opening page Roy establishes the omnipresent fear of tyranny, which permeates life’s every decision, be it minor (what to wear) or major (whether to keep a child, and what to name it). Step wrong and be judged harshly. Even children shout each other down in educational exercises. Yezi finds a child’s pleasures, like raising silkworms with a friend, even as her mother is imprisoned and her father works in a forced-labour camp. Roy contextualizes and links the characters’ limited perspective to the broader world, especially America, through family histories and politics. She does so without over-explaining, and subtly shows Yezi’s eventual shock and adjustment to Western culture. At times the story drifts, coming across as a series of anecdotes. But ultimately Roy connects an uncertain beginning to a satisfying end.