“Essential reading for anyone interested in contemporary life in China, and highly recommended for memoir enthusiasts in general.” -- Library Journal (starred review)
"Chongda paints a tantalizing portrait of a changing China in his dazzling English-language debut. [Vessel] shines with the bright talent of an excellent storyteller." -- Publishers Weekly
An unprecedented and heartfelt memoir that illuminates the lives of rural Chinese workers, offering a portrait of generational strife, family, love, and loss that crosses cultures and time.
Cai Chongda spent his childhood in a rural fishing village in Fujian province. When his father—a former communist gang leader turned gas station owner—has a stroke that partially paralyzes him, his responsibilities fall to Cai, his only son.
Assuming his new role as head of the family, Cai toils alongside his mother and older sister to pay the medical bills that have become a part of a rapidly changing Chinese society. As Cai works his way through university and moves to Beijing, eventually becoming the editorial director of GQ China, he finds his life increasingly at odds with the family he supports but has left behind.
Like The Glass Castle and Hillbilly Elegy, Vessel neither romanticizes nor condemns the people and circumstances that shaped a young man’s life, but instead offers a way forward, revealing how tradition can enrich modern life.
Translated from the Chinese by Dylan Levi King