Kirkus Reviews, February 1, 1999
Should a young girl follow the cultural imperatives of her society and go through with an arranged marriage, or embark upon a dangerous journey in an attempt to escape the situation? That's the dilemma that confronts Ying, the plucky 11-year-old heroine in this suspenseful novel. Russell offers a thought-provoking glimpse of Chinese society in the 1940s, where children have no rights, but belong body and soul to their father's family. When Ying's wealthy, autocratic paternal grandmother informs her visiting granddaughter that she's to be married immediately, her word is law. Ying protests--she desperately wants to return home to her beloved, ailing maternal grandmother--but her objections are brushed aside. Feeling out of options, Ying decides to flee; in the action-packed but somewhat confusing, surprisingly flat journey that follows, Ying briefly teams up with an orphan, grapples with her conniving aunt, and finds an unexpected ally in her groom-to-be. Although Russell's characterization of the resourceful, determined Ying is solid, it's the wealth of cultural detail, the curious facts, and vivid descriptions of a time and place governed by a specific set of underlying assumptions that will keep readers engaged.
School Library Journal, April 1999
Diane Marton, Arlington County Library, VA
In 1948, 11-year-old Ying, the feisty, resourceful heroine of Russell's earlier novels, still lives with her beloved maternal grandmother, Ah Pau, in a small village in southeastern China. Word comes that her wealthy paternal grandmother, Ah Mah, is seriously ill and wants to see her. Ying makes the day-long trip only to discover that its real purpose is to marry her to the son of a well-to-do family. She wants no part of this arranged marriage and plots to return to Ah Pau, whose poor health has her very concerned. After a series of action-packed but unlikely adventures, including an escape and a subsequent capture by bandits, Ying finally makes it home. The story is told in workmanlike, straightforward prose. It's strengths are in the maturation of Ying expressed in her concern for Ah Pau and in her compassion for Ah Mah, and in the details of Chinese village life, particularly the wedding and funeral customs and the glimpse into life in a wealthy household. A pen-and-ink sketch introduces each chapter.
Booklist, March 1, 1999
Eleven-year-old Ying lives in a small village near Canton in the early 1940s with her mother's mother, for her parents are working in Hong Kong. When summoned to her father's mother's house, despite her maternal grandmother's ill health, Ying is mystified and upset, though the journey and the rich house and clothing that await her are intriguing. Ying finds, however, that she is to be married off. Because of her tender age, she will share her mother-in-law's bed until she is 18. Ying wants only to return to her grandmother and run away, but she is captured and brought to her perspective in-laws. Learning of her distress, her gentle bridegroom enables her to return to her grandmother and nurse her back to health. The many details of the wedding arrangements, household habits and furnishings, food, and clothing come from Russell's own family stories. The story is told in the first-person by Ying; despite, or perhaps because of, that, the narrative never fully coheres or takes flight. Young people who enjoyed Diane Lee Wilson's I Rode a Horse of Milk White Jade (1998) might be taken with this one.