The First Excellence: Fa-ling’s Map

The First Excellence: Fa-ling’s Map
By Donna Carrick
Paperback: 374 pages
Publisher: BookSurge Publishing (September 26, 2009)
E-publisher: Carrick Publishing

The First Excellence is a tapestry of story lines. There are three main plots: A young woman journeys to China, the land of her birth, on a personal quest.  She travels with a group of adoptive couples, who are going to meet their new children. A murder in the hotel leads several characters into the world of Falun Gong, political manoeuvring and the underworld. But that is just the surface. The author nimbly weaves in several sub-plots, creating a many-layered tale. The resulting book is hard to put down.

Carrick’s own experience of going to China to meet her adopted daughter shines through the rich descriptions: The couples’ anticipation and worries, their feelings as they negotiate the inevitable bureaucratic red-tape, and their wonder, when they are finally united with the babies.

Carrick’s talent for voice and character development is evident; by the end of the story I felt as if I had been travelling with the adoptive couples myself. I was beside Fa-Ling as she looked down from the airplane window at the city of Nanning at night, and again when she pondered the changes occurring in preparation for the Beijing Olympics.

The author also delivers a murder mystery with compelling twists and turns, that link right into the stories of the adoptive group and Fa-Ling’s personal quest for both her past and her future. All the details are proof that the author has done her cultural research well.

The tale ends with a wonderful twist that ties everything up, yet leaves the reader with a slight pang of what could have been. I am looking forward to a sequel.

Visit Carrick Publishing  for more information on this and other books by Donna Carrick, as well as  links to purchase the book in various print and e-formats.


About Chris Galvin

Chris Galvin is a Canadian writer, editor and photographer dividing her time between Canada and Viet Nam. Her essay Flood Season was a finalist for the 2012 Best of the Net prize, and Discovering Hến Rice in Central Việt Nam won third place (shared) and a Readers’ Choice Award in the 2015 I Must Be Off! Travel Essay Contest. Her work has appeared in various anthologies and literary journals, including Descant, Asian Cha, PRISM International, Room, and others. She has written in Vietnamese and English for Vietnam Tourism Review/Kham Pha Du Lich Vietnam Magazine, Travellive, and Du Lich Giai Tri. Chris is currently looking for a home for her recently completed manuscript, Breakfast Under the Bodhi Tree, a book about living, eating, and tour-guiding in Viet Nam.
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One Response to The First Excellence: Fa-ling’s Map

  1. Chris, thank you again for this wonderful review of the First Excellence. Very best regards,

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