**Thank you Doubleday/Nan t. Talese and Netgalley for providing this in exchange for an honest review**
First off I want to say the book description is kind of misleading. A little over half the story is about the relationship between Mu and Jian. However, a good chunk of the story is about Iona. Iona is hired to translate Mu and Jian's letters and diaries. It is Iona's story that knocked this down from a 5 Star read.
I loved Mu from the start. I feel she was the real heart and soul of this book. Every time she was hit by tragedy, I wanted to cuddle her up in my arms and tell her we'd find a way to make everything ok. She is one of the most realistic characters I've ever come across. She is fiercely loyal and protective of those close to her. She wants to have her voice heard in a country where a good percentage of people still feel women are best seen and unheard. And yet, she is still vulnerable. Her wounds are never given time to heal before life hits her again.
It took me a little while to warm up to Jian. Not because he is a bad character, but because I couldn't relate to him. He is angry. Very, very angry and with good reason. He is not much older then a toddler when life shows just how cruel it can be and life makes Jian her punching bag from then on. When I finally accepted that I would never really "get" him, all I could do is feel for him, I grew to love him. No matter the manner or how many times people try to silence him, he won't allow it. And when I finally got to his manifesto, it almost brought me to tears.
Watching these two people who were so different yet so similar come together was absolutely beautiful and heart wrenching.
Then there was Iona. The one thing I loved about her was her passion for Mu and Jian's story. It is hard to translate Chinese into English. The Chinese language and be interpreted in many way and there are many Chinese words that do not have an English counterpart. Iona goes to great lengths to make sure she is truly translating the real story and not interpreting things the way she wants them to be. That is the only thing I can positive I can say about her. She falls into the third to midlife-white-female-who-is-detached-for-reasons-unknown-consoles-herself-with-string-of-one-night-stands-finds-man-who-is-married-or-unavailable-for-reasons-realizes-she-needs-him-to-make-herself-whole-and-will-get-him-at-whatever-cost cliché. The carcass of this story line should respectfully asks authors to stop beating it.
If you are looking for a loving, happily ever after, this is not the book for you. If you are looking for a an emotionally change, phenomenal story of two people trying to make a difference in the world, then grab this book.