Author: Grace Lin
Minli lives in a poor, monotonous village at the base of Fruitless Mountain, where nothing beautiful grows and the villagers spend their days tediously planting rice. Her mother sighs loudly and often about their terrible misfortune, and Minli longs to make Fruitless Mountain green as it was long ago so that the village may prosper and her mother and father will be happy. One night, her father tells her a story about the Old Man of the Moon, who knows the answer to every question. Minli decides that she will go on a quest like the ones in the stories her father tells her every evening to meet the Old Man of the Moon and ask him how to bring good fortune to the village. The next day, she quietly packs her bag, writes her parents a note, and slips out of the village, beginning her journey to Never Ending Mountain. Minli’s parents are desperate for her to return, and their days are long and bitter. Along the way, she meets a talking fish who helps her find her way, a dragon named Dragon who becomes Minli’s travelling companion, a king, friendly villagers who save Minli and Dragon from an evil tiger, and, of course, the Old Man of the Moon. In the end, however, Minli understands the true meaning of fortune, and when she returns to her family, Fruitless Mountain blooms again.
This is a beautiful book that seamlessly brings together many Chinese and Asian folk tales together to create Minli’s journey. The settings are described vividly and the emotions that the characters experience— joy, remorse, excitement, discontent, desperation, sadness, and thankfulness— feel so real. It has a universal appeal in the discontent mother, the wise, faithful father, and the clever, selfless daughter who just wants the best for her family. The message, that appreciating what you have is the key to good fortune, is very meaningful and ends the story on a happy note: where everyone is prospering.
I actually had the chance to meet Grace Lin, the author of Where the Mountain Meets the Moon, a few years ago at a book convention and it was a great experience. Ms. Lin talked a little bit about the Chinese culture and where she got her inspiration for this book from. She said some of the fables in the story are actual Chinese myths, while others were made up, although you can probably find similar elements in other Asian folktales. According to Ms. Lin, the Old Man in the Moon is actually Yue-lao, the Chinese god of marriage merged with Shou Xing, the god of longetivity. The settings in the book were also inspired by real places such as the mountain village of Chuadixia and the Humble Administrator’s Garden in Suzhou in China.
Grace Lin even signed my copy of the book! 🙂