I first read this amazing novel in October 2006 and could not stop singing its praises to everyone I knew. This book is an amazing story. Highly recommended!!!
Xing Xing is bound - a mere slave that is trapped in horrific surroundings. She is bound to her late father's cruel second wife and selfish daughter. Xing Xing is bound to a life of servitude as a young girl in ancient China, where a woman is valued less than livestock and has no control over her life and her future. It would seem that Xing Xing is bound to be alone, with no parents to arrange for a suitable husband.
Xing Xing spends her days taking care of her half sister, Wei Ping, who cannot walk because of her foot bindings, the painful tradition for girls who are fit to be married. Even so, Xing Xing is content to practice her gift for poetry and calligraphy, and to dream of a life unbound by the laws of family and society.
But all of this is about to change as Stepmother, who has spent nearly all of the family's money, grows desperate to find a husband for Wei Ping. Xing Xing soon realizes that this greed and desperation may threaten not only her memories of the past, but also her dreams for the future.
When Xing Xing discovers her mother's beautiful green gown and decides to dress up and go to the festival, her beauty and grace catch the eye of the handsome prince. He must find the beautiful girl at the festival because he knows that she alone is his one true love. Soon Xing Xing's life will change forever.
This beautiful story has so many wonderful elements - rich details written in poetic prose, the Cinderella story combined with fascinating details about ancient Chinese culture, and Donna Jo Napoli's development of the main character Xing Xing. Readers will admire and envy her strength and the simple contentment she seems to embody despite the unfair, harsh life forced upon her. I admit I shed a few tears while reading this book! Check it out - the story will touch anyone who reads it.