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Swimming Back to Trout River

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Swimming Back to Trout River

A Novel

Bookseller Recommendation

If you enjoyed Pachinko (National Book Award Finalist), then you’ll love Swimming Back to Trout River.

“This was a gorgeously written book. I feel like the blurb doesn't do it justice but then again, this book tackles things on so many different levels it's hard to quantify. Basically, we have a interconnected cast of characters that are imperfect and suffering: a young girl born without the bottom half of her legs grow ups with her grandparents because her parents went to America to find a better life, a man who discovered a love of music thanks to a chance encounter at university, a woman who has deep regrets and grievances from her past follows her husband to America but decides to forge her own way, and another woman who's intense love and talent for music is crushed by her home country and finds a new life somewhere else. It's set against China's Cultural Revolution, when all foreign cultural influences were banned and destroyed and people previously associated with those influences alienated, chastised, or killed. Feng is a beautiful writer. I especially loved her language about music and what the different rhythms and notes mean to different people. Also, having learned about the Cultural Revolution but having never read fiction set during it, it was terrifying to witness the destruction through eyes of artists and citizens. I was super enthralled by the whole book from beginning to end. I highly recommend this book to anyone who likes literary fiction with strong historical context, it would be great for those that enjoyed Pachinko, Girl, Woman, Other, and Homegoing.”

Buttonwood Books and Toys image Kimi, Buttonwood Books and Toys


A lyrical novel set against the backdrop of China’s Cultural Revolution that follows a father’s quest to reunite his family before his precocious daughter’s momentous birthday, which Garth Greenwell calls “one of the most beautiful debuts I’ve read in years.”

“A beautifully written, poignant exploration of family, art, culture, immigration, and most of all, love.” —Jean Kwok, author of Searching for Sylvie Lee and Girl in Translation

How many times in life can we start over without losing ourselves?

In the summer of 1986, in a small Chinese village, ten-year-old Junie receives a momentous letter from her parents, who had left for America years ago: her father promises to return home and collect her by her twelfth birthday. But Junie’s growing determination to stay put in the idyllic countryside with her beloved grandparents threatens to derail her family’s shared future.

What Junie doesn’t know is that her parents, Momo and Cassia, are newly estranged from one another in their adopted country, each holding close private tragedies and histories from the tumultuous years of their youth during China’s Cultural Revolution. While Momo grapples anew with his deferred musical ambitions and dreams for Junie’s future in America, Cassia finally begins to wrestle with a shocking act of brutality from years ago. In order for Momo to fulfill his promise, he must make one last desperate attempt to reunite all three members of the family before Junie’s birthday—even if it means bringing painful family secrets to light.

Swimming Back to Trout River weaves together the stories of Junie, Momo, Cassia, and Dawn—a talented violinist from Momo’s past—while depicting their heartbreak and resilience, tenderly revealing the hope, compromises, and abiding ingenuity that make up the lives of immigrants. Feng’s debut is “filled with tragedy yet touched with life-affirming passion” (Kirkus Reviews, starred review), and “Feng weaves a plot both surprising and inevitable, with not a word to spare” (Booklist, starred review).

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