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Junying Kirk came to Britain from China in 1988. She has lived almost as long in her adopted country as in the country of her birth. She was born in the 1960s and grew up in the turbulent times of the Cultural Revolution. A British Council scholarship led her to study English Language Teaching at Warwick University, followed by further postgraduate degrees at Glasgow and Leeds. She has worked as an academic, administrator, researcher, teacher and cultural consultant. Currently working as a professional interpreter and translator, she enjoys writing fiction, reading, blogging and travelling. Her Journey to the West trilogy, 'The Same Moon', 'Trials of Life' and 'Land of Hope' have been published on electronic form here and elsewhere. She lives in Birmingham with her husband.
on April 24, 2013 :
This is the story of a Chinese woman pursuing her continuing education by emigrating to England and working for a PhD there. She eventually gets her degree and takes a job as a police interpreter. This job takes her to all kinds of places and situations, many of them quite stressful and heartbreaking at the same time. She is married and the stress of her job comes between her and her husband. Various other story lines involve body trafficking, sexual exploitation, money laundering. Many people emigrate from China hoping for a better life. China has been a poor country for so long, people go elsewhere such as England to make money to send back to help support their families still in China. The characters are well drawn with good dynamics between the main characters. The story is tightly plotted and keeps your attention throughout. Every piece of the story is there for a reason. I have thoroughly enjoyed this story and recommend it to any and all.
(reviewed within a month of purchase)
on Nov. 07, 2012 :
It is universally accepted that life is full of coincidences, and I wish to share with you one such coincidence, a most insignificant one I expect you to say, but which happened to make me smile.
Shortly before Junying offered me the opportunity to read her new book –which by the way also depicts quite a few steaming sensual encounters, and instances of rather sizzling eroticism- I heard a joke alluding to the allegedly sensual and passionate nature of Italian nationals. It was delivered to me as a joke, I repeat, and it goes like this: one morning in Italy a radio presenter informs his listeners that according to a recent survey 50% of their citizens were cheating on their partners: “So if it’s not you, then it is your wife” he concluded most resolutely.
Coincidentally, as I said, I heard this joke about the same time I came to become acquainted to a fictional stranger, a very passionate driven woman called Pearl, the main character in Junying’s book Land of Hope, whose job as a police interpreter brings her more often than not in an uncomfortable close proximity to the criminal world.
I engaged -I must admit- rather tentatively in this exercise. My apprehension stemmed I guess from the fear that she might be some embodiment of flawless perfection and righteousness which would make all my own imperfections seem even heavier and more unforgivable in my own eyes. I am glad to say I was wrong and my fears were unfounded; pretty soon, after reading only a few pages I couldn’t help but warm up to Junying’s main female character.
At times Pearl feels crushed under suffocating doubts like all of us, she needs and asks for advice from trusted friends before making some decisions, and yes, Horror of Horrors she makes mistakes. Like the rest of us. And just like the rest of us she lives to regret some of her errors -heart wrenchingly so, especially when there is no turning back -the dice having had been irretrievably cast. Her subsequent happiness -if there is one to be had- depends on such errors being forgiven by those close to her. And how often did we ourselves pray/hoped most fervently that forgiveness would be bestowed upon us too, when we happened to make as they say a hash of things. No, I did not feel patronised in any way by Pearl, on the contrary she was rendered more realistically human precisely because of her flaws, tormenting indecisions, hope against hope dreams of happiness.
As for the other characters in the book, all I can say is that once I started reading the book I certainly wanted to know what was going to happen to them next, so I felt compelled to carry on reading. There are a number of intertwined threads within the book, each of these threads following the lives of different sets of characters over shorter or longer periods of time. Some of the minor characters are only sketched, which for this particular reader was a bonus, I for one was grateful to be allowed the liberty to fill in gaps in the portrayal of characters, the opportunity to put flesh on bones in accordance with my own views, opinions, in general on ideas derived from my own life experience. The author has definitely recognised the benefits of a minimalist approach, the fact that at times less is definitely more.
Finally I can only congratulate our friend Junying for her achievement in writing yet another book, and just to prove that I took on board her -as always delicate- words in respect of my (let’s say often misunderstood by others) sense of humour, I wish to reassure her that the joke at the beginning does indeed conform with the well established and worldwide esteemed high standards of the BBC, and it is well within the said boundaries (I did actually check) so there is no call to worry needlessly. On this rare occasion ...
And finally-finally I wish Ms Kirk the greatest success, and hopefully she would have gathered enough material by now whilst away in holiday to start writing a new book soon.
(reviewed long after purchase)
on Oct. 02, 2012 :
A totally, captivating, and powerfully potent suspense thriller. The book is cleverly written with the emotions, lives and outcomes of all the main characters, interpreted and told through the eyes of the books’ main character, Pearl Zhang, the story sucks you in immediately.
We are introduced to the main character Pearl Zhang, a Mandarin Language Interpreter working with law enforcement and social service agencies in the United Kingdom. Pearl’s life is at a crossroads on professional and personal levels. Forced out of her previous successful career, Pearl has launched a new career for herself working closely with these agencies, all the while she is dealing with the pain of being recently separated from the love of her life, Husband Andrew.
Pearl’s separation, loneliness and self-doubts lead her into the arms of Detective Inspector Jack Gordon, a former military hero, but a similarly work obsessed character.
Their steamy and seductive chemistry is only outdone by their own self doubts and loneliness, sharply brought into contrast, with the dramatic and sometimes graphic stories of the other characters in the book.
Kirk, uses Pearl’s character to narrate the story, and introduces the reader to the dark and painful world of human trafficking, where individual stories are sometimes heartbreaking and often frustrating in their outcomes, as public and private agencies fight, often valiantly, but often with little or no useful result, to help men, women, and children who have been kidnapped, tricked, or forced by violence; into a world they never wanted or can handle.
Passionate and committed to her work, Pearl finds her involvement with these human stories intensely personal and leads her to question the motivations and morality of the Snakeheads(Traffickers), and how they can subject innocent helpless people, to such brutal and horrific treatment on every level.
Kirk, does a wonderful job of developing the book’s characters, showing the reader increasingly significant cracks in Pearl’s thoughts and feelings, the more she delves into the fascinating cast of characters created by the author. Pearl’s interaction and sense of personal responsibility and commitment for the truth, and assisting these helpless people sometimes; creates situations of powerful over-dependence by each character on Pearl, beyond her professional instincts.
It is often this mental and emotional battle between her professional role, and her personal moral and emotional uncertainty that provides; the most unexpected and shocking of consequences for the book’s characters and indeed, Pearl herself. The author has taken a very complex and challenging modern issue, and expertly treated it with a clear compassion and detailed understanding, enabling the reader to discover harsh realities of the brutal and often little addressed issue of human trafficking.
It is a book of extremes with characters of ultra confidence and manipulative brilliance, through to the petrified characters often deeply emotionally troubled, due to the nature of their experiences and life’s reflections. The book contains many frightening, unfortunate, and true messages, told with imaginative twists and turns.
We often read fictional thrillers in the pursuit and desire for escapism for ourselves however; by the time the reader is introduced to each character and personal story, you will find yourself egging on the vulnerable to succeed in their desire to escape and seek a better life.
Money being the root of all evils, the irony is that the evil incarcerators and those incarcerated is their need to fulfil one common desire – earn money. The author captures this forcefully when using Deng Xiao Ping’s quote, ‘Getting Rich is Glorious’. Glorious for those who have it, and glorious for those who may get it, due to the dreadful life they would escape.
Each personal story in the book is absorbing and testimony to the author’s knowledge of the subject matter and intelligent writing. Each person, like all immigrants believe “The Land of Hope” in Europe, Japan or the USA will be the answer to their problems. Too often immigrants only realise that the life they left behind, was in many ways, better then the life they now find themselves exposed to.
They can only think pleasant things in their dreams and hold onto the happiness of home in their hearts, not their day to day reality.
The book is absorbing, cleverly written, and fast-paced style throughout with an informative and educational element driven by great characters. The book is powerful in its culmination with an action packed yet, heart tugging ending. It leaves the reader considering this very real world issue and yet, the characters are so credible, you are left wondering if there is an Ah Fang, Madam Lin or even a Dragon in your locality.
One final note, at the outset of the book, the author provides a very useful guide to Chinese names, to assist the reader with a better understanding of how Chinese names compared to Western names. This proves very useful especially for those persons not familiar with the subtle differences.
A highly recommended read.
(reviewed within a week of purchase)
on Sep. 29, 2012 :
I will make this review "official" on my blog, Now is Gone, on Oct. 7 during the blog tour. That review will include illustrations, formatting and links, so remember to come by and check it out.
Book Info: Genre: Thriller/Suspense with some romance
Reading Level: Adult (some erotic scenes)
Book Available October, 2012 in ebook from multiple distributors
Recommended for: Those interested in thrillers, especially with topics based on real-world issues, like human trafficking and slavery
Read: 8/20 - 8/29/12 and 9/21 - 24/12
Disclosure: I edited this book for this author; I do not receive any financial renumeration based upon sales. I am happy to provide an honest review.
Synopsis: Every year, millions of illegal immigrants cross borders in search of wealth, happiness and a life of ease in the Land of Hope. Some succeed. Others suffer unimaginable hardships.
When Jack Gordon, Inspector in the SCS (Serious Crime Squad) hires Pearl Zhang, a professional Chinese interpreter, they join forces to fight injustice in the corrupt underworld of international crime, human trafficking and sexual exploitation.
Pearl is the voice of broken dreams, translating raw, deranged, and colorful tales of those who cannot speak for themselves. As Pearl gets more and more tangled in the lives of strangers, Jack becomes a welcome diversion, complicated by the fact that both are married. Their trans-continental roller-coaster ride derails when Pearl tumbles into the sinister world of her clients, a world full of secrets, lies, and unspeakable violence – only this time, it's directed at her.
Can she depend on Jack? Find out in this third and final book of Junying Kirk's "Journey to the West" trilogy.
My Thoughts: Unlike the two earlier books in the Journey to the West series, this one is not semi-autobiographical (or at least I hope not!). While I would not be in the least bit surprised to discover that Ms. Kirk has based some of the immigrants’ stories upon things she had actually witnessed during her career as an interpreter, the plot itself comes strictly from her vivid imagination. There are scenes in here that I am going to give warning about – **if scenes of rape and violence against women are a trigger for you, be warned**: there are several in this book. This book deals with the very serious issues of human trafficking and sex-slavery, which is a world that many desperate female immigrants end up trapped in.
I won’t lie to you, this was a very difficult story for me to read. There were sections I really had to struggle to push though, especially the first time – the story is brutal, realistic, and not for the faint of heart. That said, I think it’s also important that we become aware of this issue – or more aware, if it is something we think we know about. Seeing the struggles of the people that Ms. Kirk has put into this book... it’s just heartbreaking. They put everything they own and then some into their hopes and dreams for a better life, and where does it get them? Like as not, it gets them trapped in an even worse situation.
To fully understand the characters of Pearl and Andrew, it’s best to read all three books in the trilogy, but it’s not necessary to understand what happens in this book, which can be read as a standalone – enough information from the previous books is included to give you some idea as to what has happened. Other characters are given the spotlight in this book, especially some of the immigrants whose stories are told through the course of the book.
The reader has to be aware that interspersed with the main plot are the stories of the various people with whom Pearl interacts during the course of the stories, and whose lives are affected in the end by the main plot. These chapters alternate with the main story, so the reader needs to watch the chapter titles carefully to keep track as to whether they are reading the main story, or part of one of the other characters’ stories. As long as the reader is aware of this, they can easily keep track of what is happening.
This is a book I had a difficult time rating, honestly. I always have trouble rating the books I edit, because I see them in the “raw” form and not the final form. My final rating is based upon the fact that the story itself was very difficult for me to read, but it is a topic I think is important and a book I think people should read.
If you have enjoyed the previous books in the Journey to the West – which are "The Same Moon" and "Trials of Life" – then you will not want to miss this final book in the trilogy. If you enjoy suspense or thrillers based upon real-world issues, you won’t want to miss this book. If you are interested in the problems faced by immigrants, or by those trapped by human trafficking and sex slavery, don’t miss this book. Recommended.
(reviewed the day of purchase)