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?
Leslie Shimotakahara holds a Ph.D. in English from Brown University. Her memoir, The Reading List, won the Canada-Japan Literary Award in 2012, and her fiction has been shortlisted for the K.M. Hunter Artist Award. Leslie lives in Toronto.
Shimotakahara writes with refined sensitivity about the fragility of human nature, and how such vulnerability can transform into strength in the name of love.
Red Oblivion is a beautifully written, gripping mystery which captures the struggles between generations, times, and places. Leslie Shimotakahara skillfully illustrates the internal conflicts of daughters with modern Canadian sensibilities challenged by age-old Chinese familial expectations. Detailed renderings of today’s Hong Kong provide a fascinating backdrop for this engrossing tale of the continuing legacy of the Cultural Revolution. A literary page-turner. Shimotakahara’s best work to date.
Shimotakahara’s writing is personal and entrancing, unflinchingly shining a light on this difficult part of history.
Haunting and true to life, Red Oblivion will captivate readers. Shimotakahara skillfully weaves history and imagination to tell a story about a daughter’s quest to unravel her father’s complicated past so that others can understand its far-reaching influence on their present lives. A strong narrative voice draws us into a world of secrets, sacrifices, and betrayals, transporting readers from Canada to Hong Kong and Guangzhou, China — only to find that the complex truths that bind friendships and families are often universal.