Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Book Blog Tour of In the Shadow of the Cypress by Thomas Steinbeck

Welcome to the Book Blog Tour of In the Shadow of the Cypress by Thomas Steinbeck.

In the Shadow of the Cypress
The blurb:
In 1906, the Chinese in California lived in the shadows. Their alien customs, traditions, and language hid what they valued from their neighbors. . . an left them open to scorn and prejudice. Their communities were ruled -- and divided -- by the necessity of survival among the many would-be masters surrounding them, by struggles between powerful tongs, and by duty to their ancestors.

Then, in the wake of a natural disaster, fate brought to light artifacts of incredible value among the Monterey coast: an ancient Chinese jade seal and a plaque inscribed in a trio of languages lost to all but scholars of antiquity. At first, chance placed control of those treasures in the hands of outsiders -- the wayward Irishman who'd discovered them and a marine scholar who was determined to explore their secrets. The path to the truth, however, would prove to be as tangled as the roots of the ancient cypress that had guarded these treasures for so long, for there are some secrets the Chinese were not ready to share. Whether by fate, by subtle design, or some intricate combination of the two, the artifacts disappeared again. . . before it could be proved that they must have come there ages before Europeans ever touched the wild and beautiful California coast.

Nearly a century would pass before an unconventional young American scientist unearths evidence of this great discovery and its mysterious disappearance. Taking up the challenge, he begins to assemble a new generation of explorers to resume the perilous search into the ocean's depth. . . and the shadows of history. Armed with cutting edge, modern technology, and drawing on connections to powerful families at home and abroad, this time Americans and Chinese will follow together the path of secrets that have long proved as elusive as the ancient treasures that held them.

This striking debut novel by a masterful writer weaves together two facinating eras into one remarkable tale. In the Shadow of the Cypress is an evocative, dramatic story that depicts California in all its multicultural variety, with a suspense that draws the reader inexorably on until the very last page.

In the Shadow of the Cypress is an unusual and engrossing read. The book is told from three points of view: that of Dr. Charles Gilbert, a professor at Stanford University in 1906, that of his contemporary, Dr. Lao-Hong, a Harvard-educated Chinese who takes an active role assisting the Chinese community, and that of Charles Lucas, a graduate student at Stanford in the present. At the center of the book is a mystery of unique Chinese artifacts that were first discovered in Northern California in 1906, at a time that Chinese immigrants are marginalized.

The novel begins with the narrative of Dr. Charles E. Gilbert, a professor of marine biology at Stanford. As Gilbert describes life in Northern California during the early 1900s, he sympathizes with the local Chinese as they face open discrimination and attacks on China Point. Gilbert learns about the discovery of unique Chinese artifacts and his fascination with the mysterious artifacts leads him to a great mystery.

Then the novel the impact that the artifacts have on the local Chinese community from the point of view of Dr. Lao-Hong, a contemporary of Dr. Gilbert's. Dr. Lao-Hong is a Harvard graduate and well respected member of the Chinese community. Born, raised and educated in America, Dr. Lao-Hong often shares a "semi-Western sensibility" and often feels torn between two cultures. In a society where family ties and connections are of critical importance, Dr. Long-Hong is fortunate in his family and clan; he is nephew to two highly respected directors of the powerful Three Corporations. As the representative of Three Corporations, Dr. Lao-Hong tasked with balancing conflicting claims over the artifacts that would respect the people and town where the artifacts were discovered, the local tongs and his clan, and the interests of Mainland China.

When as a student at Stanford, Luke comes across Dr. Gilbert's notes on the artifacts and he immediately recognizes the importance of this groundbreaking discovery. Luke tries to decipher the symbols and enlists the expertise of Robert Wu, a Chinese American PhD candidate. Working together and aided by cutting edge technology, Luke and Robert decipher the mysteries of the ancient Chinese artifacts.

Thomas Steinbeck's In the Shadow of the Cypress is a well-crafted and fascinating read. The mystery of the artifacts drew me in but I found the descriptions of Dr. Lao-Hong and the Chinese communities to be the best part of the book. Steinbeck weaves an intriguing tale and offers a sympathetic look at a hidden culture.

1439168253 - Hardcover $ 25.00
Publisher: Pocket (April 6, 2010), 256 pages.
Review copy provided by the publisher.

About the Author:
Thomas Steinbeck began his career in the 1960s as a combat photographer in Vietnam. Along with his writing an producing obligations, he is in demand as a public speaker, lecturing on American literature, creative writing and the communication arts. He lives in California with his wife.

Thank you so much to Sarah and PocketBooks for this review opportunity!

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