Rebecca Ascher-Walsh
September 12, 2003 AT 04:00 AM EDT

The Fifth Book of Peace

type
Book
Current Status
In Season
author
Maxine Hong Kingston
genre
Fiction

We gave it a B

In 1991, Kingston’s home was destroyed by sweeping fires in California’s Oakland-Berkeley Hills; the ”Woman Warrior” author lost most of her possessions, including the manuscript of the novel she was working on, entitled ”The Fourth Book of Peace” (in the tradition of the three ancient — and also lost — Chinese books of peace). Kingston rebuilds from the rubble, dividing this book into sections of nonfiction (a powerful account of the fire and of her efforts to gather war veterans in a literary community) and a retelling of the lost novel. ”Peace” is thoughtful and passionate, but ultimately the gamble of mixed modes of storytelling doesn’t pay off.

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