Hongwei Lou describes her background, meeting with her husband in college, and their discovery of Falun Gong, which she claims drastically improved their lives - until the Chinese Communist Party decided it felt threatened by the practice and could no longer tolerate it. Hongwei had in some ways a protected childhood in spite of the fact that her parents were not rich, because her parents, growing up during the Cultural Revolution, did not want her to face the same difficulties they faced. At the same time, she knew what she needed to do to succeed: Do well in school and go to college. She did, and there she met her husband, Dongwei. They quickly fell in love, and unlike many college girlfriends and boyfriends in China, found jobs close to one another, stayed together, and were married. They went to graduate school to improve their career opportunities and started into decent job offers after this. But while this improved their standard of living, this did not bring them complete happiness.
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When Hongwei's parents discovered Falun Gong, a meditation practice with spiritual teachings encouraging self-improvement and self-cultivation, in 1996, it takes Hongwei a while to come see what it's all about. Finally one day, between worrying about and pestering Dongwei about an apartment, Hongwei decided to start reading Zhuan Falun, the practice's main book. In mainland China under communist rule spiritual teachings are hard to come by, and many religious groups and spiritual paths find themselves unacceptably restricted or persecuted. She found the book answered questions she and Dongwei had often asked each other, and decided she wanted to practice. Seeing the change in his wife (who immediately stopped pestering him about their apartment), Dongwei decided to practice, also. For three years, they lived a happy life. Their relationship improves, and they excel at work.
In 1999, the Chinese Communist Party banned Falun Gong in a manner inconsistent with its own constitution and began sending practitioners to prison for forced labor, torture, and "reeducation." Hongwei had not lived through the Cultural Revolution, and implicitly trusted those governing her country. She and her husband quickly discovered what those older than her already knew: The persecution of Falun Gong was just an example of politicians following the same old pattern. They felt threatened by a group with so many followers, so they set up fake propoganda, etc. to tear them down.
As the book continues, Hongwei recounts her own experiences in a labor camp, the subsequent birth of her daughter, and her two following degrees: one in law in China (during which she realizes and is able to explain many of the Communist Party's legal inconsistencies), and another in the UK. Following her British masters, she is unable to safely return home because her husband has once again been imprisoned. She knows family members of prisoners are often targeted. Her daughter must be entrusted to her grandparents. Hongwei travels to the United States where she works, constantly tired but unstoppable, to bring her husband out. It takes time, but she is finally able to pick up her husband and daughter, safe and sound, at the airport in the United States.
She has been reunited with her family, but also considers the journey far from over. How many other practitioners still remain in prisons in China because they refuse to recant what has improved their lives so much?
Note: Kathryn Lovett helped edit this book. The book thus lists authorship as: "Hongwei Lou with Kathryn Lovett."
Best part of story, including ending:
Hongwei ultimately sticks to her beliefs, and her story's ending is also ultimately happy. Yet she still cares about the fate of others with similar plights whose fates have not yet been resolved. She is also able to explain the issues surrounding Falun Gong and put it in historical context through her own experiences.
Best scene in story:
When Hongwei picks up Dongwei and her daugher Tianhui at the airport, both are reserved, but both seem to understand exactly what the other has gone through and what the other is thinking. Tianhui also, in spite of not having seen her mother in several years, immediately accepts and greets her mother.
Opinion about the main character:
Hongwei learns to question what she knows, and to seek and recognize the truth. She is also able to express clearly what is unique and important about her situation and others like her.