Like troubled, dream-filled sleep, there’s a delightfully mysterious quality to Grace Lin’s new novel, Starry River of the Sky. More a companion than a sequel to her Newbery Honor novel Where the Mountain Meets the Moon, this is a meditation on home, forgiveness and what it means to be in balance in the world. These are not easy ideas for anyone, but Lin invites young readers to think beyond the page.
The reader is lulled into the tale of Rendi. At first he is a cranky runaway, fleeing his materialistic magistrate father. Later he learns to consider needs greater than his own and to become not only the hero of his life, but the hero of the Village of Clear Sky. The villagers all suffer from the missing moon and worry about the innkeeper’s absent son. Rendi fills in for the missing boy by working as a chore boy at the inn. When a mysterious woman takes up residence there, things slowly begin to change. Her storytelling, and the stories she teases from Rendi, change everything.
Like the earlier novel, much of the story is told through Chinese folktales that are woven together to reveal a mystery. Slowly, through these stories, we see Rendi examine his circumstance, take great risks to save the village, endure painful goodbyes, forgive his father and realize his need for home.
I found myself folding over page corners and flipping back to reread sections as the meaning of the story was slowly revealed. Savoring a book like this reminds me of what I like most about reading: diving deep into a new place and finding personal connections in the most unlikely of characters. Lin has written another book that is truly for all ages.