Green Island: A novel
Green Island is not the idyllic place the name implies; it’s the nickname for an island off the coast of Taiwan where the Chinese interogate political prisoners, particularly Taiwanese who speak out against the government. On the night before the narrator’s birth, agents from the Monopoly Bureau beat a widow woman to death for selling cigarettes illegally. This is the spark that ignites the people to protest the harsh rule of the Chinese. Not long afterwards, people begin to disappear: rioters in the crowd, people who have spoken against the government; it doesn’t take much for one’s name to appear on the list. The narrator’s father is among these prisoners. Eleven years later, he returns to his family, a broken man and a near stranger. The protagonist, hard though she may try, cannot escape the shadow his disappearance casts over the family.
Ryan educated and enthralled me with Green Island. Ignorant of Taiwanese history, I didn’t expect the disappearances, and I certainly didn’t expect the long arm of the discredited Republic of China to reach all the way to America. The dense air of suspicion and cloying fear lingered with me after I closed the book. Ryan is a skilled storyteller with an impressive ability to draw the reader into the narrative.
Shawna Yang Ryan