A short visit to Singapore really put my reviews on hold, but after coming home with 17 books, I'm quite confident that I'll be back writing at a more regularly pace. I picked a few of my finds to keep me confident during the plane ride home, and one of them is Xiaolu Guo's UFO in Her Eyes. In the near future, a peasant woman from the tiny Chinese village of Silver Hill reports hearing a big noise and a spinning plate in the sky. She blacks out soon after and upon waking up, she discovers a bleeding foreigner whom she patches up in her cottage.
The story unfolds through reports and interviews made by the National Security and Intelligence Agency, as they go through key individuals and witnesses in Silver Hill. In the course of three years after the incident, the village goes through significant changes that affects the lives of all its inhabitants.
UFO in Her Eyes employed an easy and lighthearted approach to tackle the issues brought about by economic and technological change, especially to a rural agricultural village like Silver Hill. It is almost heartbreaking to see the changes all over the countryside (that include the demolition of the Hundred Arm trees that were once the pride of the village and the loss of trade of its simple and elderly folk), but because of the format that Ms Guo used, the book doesn't come across as pedantic or moralizing. It still effectively holds its prose as a mirror showing the consequences that a lack of insight can bring, not just to a rapidly developing nation like China but to others as well. The characters in UFO in Her Eyes seem real, despite encountering them only through reports. They come alive through their own words and through what others say (or don't say) about them. Kwok Yun, the peasant woman who encounters the mysterious craft, goes through a particularly moving journey through these reports, as Ms Guo employs an exposition that is both subtle and probing. One of my favorite characters is her grandfather, Kwok Zidong, whose sharp language and revelations move me in unexpected ways. For a book that I picked up merely on the strength of its appeal to me (UFO and China? Sold!), this was definitely one of my luckier purchases.