book review: Street of Eternal Happiness

Street of Eternal Happiness by Rob Schmitz is a nonfiction book that provides a look at the lives of different Chinese residents along a street called the “Street of Eternal Happiness.”  Rob Schmitz tells the stories of these residents with caring humor.  He depicts their lives honestly – how the different generations view the current politics in China as well as the problems each generation has had to face.  At times, the book is an anthropological study and at times it appears whimsical in the story telling.

At first, the stories are heartbreaking, but when you encounter the tough stories, there’s always another story of survival.  For example, the book starts off describing a man who attempted to commit suicide as a teenager by slitting his wrists while he is sleeping next to his grandmother.  Obviously, the man failed and ended up moving on with his wife since the author met him as an adult.

It describes the corruption and the cover ups that happen in China’s “system.”  The Chinese sink or swim depending on how well they are able to maneuver the “system.”

The book itself, with the numerous stories, was interesting to read and gave a good look at what is going on in China today.  The part that interested me was how different people defined success.  Some people defined it financially.  Some defined success based on their children’s lives.  Others defined it as having enough money to pursue more philosophical ideals of enlightenment.

Obviously, China is very different from the United States culturally.  This book depicted those differences, but also showed that people the world over struggle to find their place.

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary e-book from Penguin through their First to Read program in exchange for my honest review.

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