I chose this book from my local library because I loved the title. Plus, the blurb on the back that described the plot sounded promising, and I was very happy to discover that it was right. In the Lap of the Gods is basically about how the Three Gorges Dam engineering project affected the lives of two people–Liu and Fang, and everyone else within their circle of friends and family. Liu is poor and Fang is rich, but both men wind up having to deal with grief and tragedy due to the relentless pursuit of progress towards the modernization of China. In fact, in a particularly tragic turn of events, Fang finds out that resistance was indeed futile.
The overall tone of this book is both melancholy and malleable. The stories of Lui and Fang seem to stream steadily into one’s conscience and settle into a pool of despair around one’s heart. The struggle of Lui, who is trying his best to do better for himself (he has had no schooling, and is therefore illiterate) and his new family is fraught with setbacks and betrayals. Fang may initially seem like The Bad Guy, but one soon finds out that there are many facets to his life and many reasons behind his seemingly selfish behavior. He turns out to be both a complex and sympathetic character.
I wasn’t expecting to enjoy the book as much as I did. The plot is fascinating and the storytelling masterful. When I finished the book, I found myself wishing I could find out how the rest of Liu’s life played out, along with all the other secondary characters.Would they eventually wind up having happy lives, or would they continue to just weather steady streams of disappointment? I was actually distressed knowing that I would never know more about these fictional characters! Also, I don’t know how I keep managing to pick authors who are only on their first novels–it’s not intentional, I swear–but I am extremely impressed with Li Miao Lovett, and I hope she writes many more books in the future. Because if they wind up even being half as good as this book, I would still read them all!