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Red Oblivion by Leslie Shimotakahara

Family secrets surface when two sisters travel to Hong Kong to care for their ill father.

When Jill Lau receives an early morning phone call that her elderly father has fallen gravely ill, she and her sister, Celeste, catch the first flight from Toronto to Hong Kong. The man they find languishing in the hospital is a barely recognizable shadow of his old, indomitable self. 

According to his housekeeper, a couple of mysterious photographs arrived anonymously in the mail in the days before his collapse. These pictures are only the first link in a chain of events that begin to reveal the truth about their father’s past and how he managed to escape from Guangzhou, China, during the Cultural Revolution to make a new life for himself in Hong Kong. Someone from the old days has returned to haunt him — exposing the terrible things he did to survive and flee one of the most violent periods of Chinese history, reinvent himself, and make the family fortune. Can Jill piece together the story of her family’s past without sacrificing her father’s love and reputation? 

Expected publication date: 15th October 2019

My thoughts:

*I received a free kindle edition of this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review*

This book is one that took me by complete and utter surprise, in the best way possible! Although I was intrigued by the synopsis, I wasn’t certain that I would enjoy it once I actually got round to starting it but I was so wrong. I literally read Red Oblivion from cover to cover, in a single day. I was so engrossed by the story of two sisters and their ailing father and the beautiful way that Leslie Shimotakahara has crafted it all. I also really enjoyed the historical facts which are woven in to the story. I must admit prior to reading I didn’t know much about the Cultural Revolution in China, but after reading, it’s something I want to know more about and educate myself on for sure.

I always appreciate when a book catches me off guard and has an emotional pull and I feel like Red Oblivion does this for me in so many ways. Starting from the familial relationships explored within the novel. There’s the most prominent one between Jill and her father, as well as the portrayal of a strained sisterly bond between Jill and her younger sister, Celeste. Jills father or ‘Ba’ as he is referred to for the majority of the novel, is a secretive and complicated man, who has always had issues with his daughters choices in life. However, when he falls gravely ill, they both come to his side despite any disagreements in the past. Ba is a hard man to know and harder to love as a character due to his treatment of his family at times. However, because of Shimotakahara’s skilful writing, you feel empathy for him at certain points as he has definitely sacrificed a lot for his family and nothing is truly black and white.

While the novel drags a bit in places and I think some readers might be put off by this, it wasn’t a deal breaker for me. One thing I feel like could have been improved was the climax of the novel. There was all this build up to what the secret in Ba’s past was and I feel like it was a little anti climactic as Jill and in turn, we had more or less figured it out by that point.

Overall, I really enjoyed reading Red Oblivion and I would recommend it to any readers who enjoy family centric narratives with beautiful and haunting prose.

★★★★ – 4 Stars

Until next time,

Rumaanah x

6 thoughts on “Red Oblivion by Leslie Shimotakahara

  1. I don’t personally mind books which are slower in parts. Sometimes that can add to it! This one sounds AMAZING. What a unique and intriguing synopsis! I’m glad it took you by surprise. I gotta say, it’s not something I think I’d reach for if I was in the library but I’d definitely give it a go based on your review xxx

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