Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Book Spotlight: "The Dance of the Spirits," by Catherine Aerie ~ Winner of the Prestigious 2014 eLit Award

The story begins in the spring of 1951 at the height of the Korean War. Caught in the thick of the fray is US Army lieutenant Wesley Palm and his men, who are forced into a retreat after acting as a rearguard for their breaking unit. Despite a fierce defense of their positions, the US troops are eventually forced to give the field to the Chinese. During the chaos, Wesley finds himself lost in a forest. He discovers the dwelling of a local Korean peasant, where he encounters a female Chinese soldier-surgeon, who, unbeknownst to him, is Jasmine Young. He nearly kills her, but refrains from doing so out of the presence of a Red Cross armband on her. After the two part ways, Wesley eventually enters a deserted Buddhist temple and manages to identify directions from his previous knowledge on Asian architecture. He led his men as they fled southwards. However, Jasmine is also revealed to have sought shelter in the same temple. At daybreak, she is found by her own respective army, and assigned to be in temporary charge of a makeshift field hospital. However, massive casualties, wretched conditions, and dire shortages of supplies and bare necessities make it more of a futile morgue. Jasmine is sent to a new field hospital where she saves the life of a young avid officer, Tin-Bo Song, who was also once her family’s favorite servant boy in the past.

Before the war, Jasmine had been the pampered daughter of a wealthy, but also complicated family. Her life is punctuated by experiences of wealth and plenty on the one hand, and family misery on the other. Throughout Jasmine’s young years, her mother continually encourages her to become a doctor so that she will be self-sufficient and not have to depend upon an unfaithful man, as has Jasmine’s mother. Into the mix of family life is added Tin-Bo, a street waif whose ability to learn quickly makes him a favorite amongst the servants of Jasmine’s mother. When communism comes to China, Jasmine, to save her family’s honor, goes to the war in Korea. While there, she meets Wesley. Through the death and misery of a war-torn land, Jasmine and Wesley find love, while Tin-Bo concludes that Jasmine is to be his or she is to belong to no one else.

“An often engaging tale of a flickering moment of love during a forgotten war.” – Kirkus Reviews

“It’s a moving tale, almost an epic along the lines of The Last Emperor or Farewell My Concubine.” – Amazon

“Perhaps that’s the great strength of The Dance of the Spirits: not only are their encounters striking, but the evolution of their passion is a slow dance that reflects the resilience of the human spirit and its ability to grow, change, and find connections under impossible conditions.” – Midwest Book Review

Visit author Catherine Aerie on her website at and on Facebook!

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