Official Review: Five Knocks by Donna Vincent Roa

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Camille Turner
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Official Review: Five Knocks by Donna Vincent Roa

Post by Camille Turner » 20 May 2018, 10:32

[Following is an official OnlineBookClub.org review of "Five Knocks" by Donna Vincent Roa.]
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4 out of 4 stars
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Five Knocks by Donna Vincent Roa is an extremely moving story about a young Chinese girl, Sya, who is adopted by an American couple living in Baltimore. The novel is built on time jumps so we get to know Sya both in middle school and post-university when she’s 25 years old. Despite growing older, one thing remains the same for Sya: her desire to find her birth parents. A victim of China’s one-child policy which prompts families to abandon or kill their children (almost all girls), Sya cannot let go of her burning motivation to discover where she comes from and who abandoned her. The desire affects her relationships with those around her, including her adoptive parents, Sam and Madeline, and her best friend, Kimmy.

Throughout her journey, Sya has to face both tragedy and disappointment, and many of the events which take place in the novel are quite unpredictable and touching. While the book description written by the author and published on many sites reveals where Sya comes from, I will leave that out of my review in case you want to be surprised when reading the book and suggest you don’t read the public description if that is the case. What I will say about the author’s choice regarding Sya’s background is that it is absolutely brilliant and makes for quite a compelling story. I will also refrain from telling you what the title means but will say that I had chills when I arrived at that part of the story. After you finish the novel, I recommend reading the author’s afterword to find out where the idea for the story came from, as it’s historically fascinating and personally moving as well.

I rate this book 4 out of 4 stars because I find the plot absolutely brilliant and the writing easy to follow. Aside from the plot, my favorite thing about the book is that readers get to see how the story affects more than just Sya. We get a glimpse into what it’s like for a birth mother to be forced to part with her baby, how insecurities manifest themselves in an adoptive mother when confronting the idea of discovering your child’s birth parents, and how siblings who are kept by their parents cope with the knowledge that while they were chosen, their sisters were given away. These perspectives show us multiple sides of the problematic and inhumane one-child policy.

Another aspect of the book which I very much enjoyed is Roa’s dedication to showing the evils of not only the one-child policy but of sexism as well. The novel presents China’s tradition of historically favoring males and how that has played a huge role in the one-child policy. So many baby girls have been abandoned or killed, something that is hard to fathom. Roa also does not shy away from discussing the forced abortions, sterilizations and infanticide that has plagued China ever since the restrictions placed on family planning, haunting facts often not discussed by the rest of the world.

Five Knocks is a story that needs to be read, if not for the pleasure of a phenomenal story, at least for its historical significance and truth. I always appreciate a book that approaches a difficult topic without fear of revealing the truth, and this novel does just that. Furthermore, the characters’ emotions are relatable and I’m sure any reader will be especially moved by the daughters and mothers in the story. I highly recommend the book, as it is a unique and touching story that will open your eyes to the horror of China’s one-child policy and the destruction of lives it has caused in its wake.

******
Five Knocks
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Post by gen_g » 20 May 2018, 23:25

Thank you for the comprehensive and critical review. It does sound like a gripping and intense read, but I am just ever so slightly dubious about Roa's ability to portray Sya accurately, given that the former is not Chinese. Otherwise, it does sound like a great book, one which I am sorely tempted to pick up.

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Post by Camille Turner » 21 May 2018, 07:24

gen_g wrote:
20 May 2018, 23:25
Thank you for the comprehensive and critical review. It does sound like a gripping and intense read, but I am just ever so slightly dubious about Roa's ability to portray Sya accurately, given that the former is not Chinese. Otherwise, it does sound like a great book, one which I am sorely tempted to pick up.
I can certainly understand your doubts there and I think it's important to consider with any book and author. It was definitely an interesting plot though, regardless of whether you feel, after reading it, that Roa portrayed a Chinese girl properly. Thanks for commenting!

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Post by kandscreeley » 21 May 2018, 07:54

I've heard much about the one child policy, but I don't know that much about it. I've also looked at the laws regarding adopting a Chinese child, and they are amazingly strict and asinine. So, I would be very curious to read this book and find out more. Thanks for the nice information.
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Post by SamSim » 21 May 2018, 07:58

I love your review and it makes me want to go ahead and buy this book in hardback - it sounds that good. I love the mystery of it and the fact that the author obviously has a lot of insight into adoption and the feelings produced through that process. Your well-written review has left me dying to know what the title means and I'm already pained for Sya.
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Post by kfwilson6 » 21 May 2018, 10:17

What an interesting concept for a book. The one-child policy is something I know very little about but horrifies me. It would be bad enough if this policy led to everyone simply taking birth control to prevent conception but the extremes to which they go to limit parents to one child is awful. I can't imagine living in such an environment.

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Post by Camille Turner » 21 May 2018, 10:27

kandscreeley wrote:
21 May 2018, 07:54
I've heard much about the one child policy, but I don't know that much about it. I've also looked at the laws regarding adopting a Chinese child, and they are amazingly strict and asinine. So, I would be very curious to read this book and find out more. Thanks for the nice information.
Yes, it's a really complicated subject and one that has brought to my attention so many awful statistics and realities associated with the policy. It's definitely worth finding out more. Thanks for commenting! :)

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Post by Camille Turner » 21 May 2018, 10:30

SamSim wrote:
21 May 2018, 07:58
I love your review and it makes me want to go ahead and buy this book in hardback - it sounds that good. I love the mystery of it and the fact that the author obviously has a lot of insight into adoption and the feelings produced through that process. Your well-written review has left me dying to know what the title means and I'm already pained for Sya.
I hope you enjoy it if you do buy it! I definitely recommend not reading the back cover and letting the whole thing be a surprise (and seeing if you can figure out the mystery yourself before it is revealed). Yes, in her afterword she talks about exploring adoption and the things she began uncovering during that process. Oh, the title is brilliant in my opinion! Thank you for commenting and I hope you like the book if you read it. :)

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Post by Camille Turner » 21 May 2018, 10:32

kfwilson6 wrote:
21 May 2018, 10:17
What an interesting concept for a book. The one-child policy is something I know very little about but horrifies me. It would be bad enough if this policy led to everyone simply taking birth control to prevent conception but the extremes to which they go to limit parents to one child is awful. I can't imagine living in such an environment.
Yes, I really think the author had a great idea when she came up with this story. I agree--it is absolutely horrific. :( I can't imagine living in a place like that either and you're right, it has led to so many horrific, extreme actions. After reading the book, I started looking into it more and didn't know they'd recently changed to a two-child policy but I personally don't feel that's going to be so much better. Can't imagine...

Thank you for commenting!

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Post by Plfern » 21 May 2018, 13:07

Camille Turner, your review put goosebumps up my back. There is mystery in your review that intrigued me. I generally enjoy reading biographies and nonfiction, but this book, Five Knocks by Donna Vincent Roa, sounds like fiction that tells a story in a realistic way. I believe I will enjoy reading this one some time in the near future. The meat of the story that refers to the girls being given up or killed at birth, is something I have read about before. I am curious to read about yet another aspect to this horrendous situation in China.

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Post by NL Hartje » 21 May 2018, 16:34

kandscreeley wrote:
21 May 2018, 07:54
I've heard much about the one child policy, but I don't know that much about it. So, I would be very curious to read this book and find out more. Thanks for the nice information.
This was pretty much my sentiment. I would love to know more about the realities behind this.
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Post by teacherjh » 21 May 2018, 17:04

The one child policy was such a tragic era and even the Chinese regret it now.

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Post by MsTri » 21 May 2018, 18:03

While I don't know that I would have wanted to read this based on its synopsis alone, I'm very impressed with your review and think that I may give it a try. You make it sound very intriguing and mysterious; I got goosebumps just reading some of your review, so major kudos to you for being so persuasive! Thanks a lot; I really hope I can find the time to read this soon.

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Post by Fuzzy456 » 22 May 2018, 22:10

This sounds like a great book. Your review was very heartfelt and makes me want to read it. The interesting thing is that there is a historical truth behind it which makes the story even more compelling. This is a definite addition to my “want to read” shelf! Thanks so much

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Post by Camille Turner » 23 May 2018, 09:59

Plfern wrote:
21 May 2018, 13:07
Camille Turner, your review put goosebumps up my back. There is mystery in your review that intrigued me. I generally enjoy reading biographies and nonfiction, but this book, Five Knocks by Donna Vincent Roa, sounds like fiction that tells a story in a realistic way. I believe I will enjoy reading this one some time in the near future. The meat of the story that refers to the girls being given up or killed at birth, is something I have read about before. I am curious to read about yet another aspect to this horrendous situation in China.
Thank you so much for your kind words! You're absolutely right, it's very realistic fiction and I think readers can imagine feeling what the characters feel. I hope you enjoy the book when you get some time to read it. Thank you very much for your comment!

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