For the sake of a breath of fresh air or a ray of sunshine in a crevice, they reach out like weeds, never giving up their hope in life…
Spanning four generations and a century of recent history, Wild Fruit tells the story of the Li family, revealing through their fates the real face of contemporary Chinese society. Growing up in rural Hunan province as part of a poor farming family, the narrator Li Xiaohan (‘Little Winter’) tells of how her despotic grandfather, Li Jiaxu, arouses resentment and rebellion in his children, while also contaminating them to varying degrees with his own bent nature.
Everyone uses his or her own method to oppose the patriarchal tyranny in the family; only the oldest brother Li Shunqiu bows to it, and he ends up in prison for fishing in a river, an experience from which he never recovers. Examples of familial and social dysfunction include Li Jiaxu sleeping with his own son’s wife, and his eldest daughter, seven months pregnant, being coerced by the family planning group, nearly dragging the whole clan into court. The narrator, seeking a better life for herself, goes to study Journalism in Beijing, where her eyes are opened to widespread corruption and horrors such as the SARS virus, which she catches, but survives.
For readers of Ma Jian’s The Dark Road, this is an unflinching look at the life of the rural poor in today’s China, populated by characters who are nonetheless fully alive and determined to wring all they can from the little they have.