When she loses her job and her lover in one fell swoop, art history professor Rose Ming agrees to accompany her mother on an annual visit to relatives in her Chinese hometown of Three Rivers. Once there, Rose learns that she, her mother, aunt, and her cousin, Hong-Mei, have all shared a strange dream prompting them to search for an ancestor nobody seems to remember. With her future uncertain, Rose decides to solve the family mystery, and instead unearths an unutterable tragedy hidden for over a hundred years.
Living in the last decades of the Qing dynasty, Peony, Lady Han, has every material comfort, a doting husband, and two beautiful children. With so much to share, she decides to adopt Jasmine, the daughter of her devoted maidservant, A-mei, giving her the advantages of a comfortable upbringing. But while Peony’s daughter, Iris, embraces Jasmine as a sister, the new addition to the family has deeper repercussions throughout both families, altering more than one future. And when Rose discovers the true history of the Han and Wang families, including their unbearable losses, she learns the meaning of love, friendship, family, faith, and the sacrifices people are willing to pay to achieve them, a lesson that allows her to face her own future with new courage.
Flowing Water, Falling Flowers is an engrossing, beautiful debut that glides through multiple times and places. Collins brings to life not only the complex cast of characters, but an entire culture, both of which come vibrantly alive through her storytelling magic. The Han, Wang, and Fang families take us on an enlightening, unforgettable journey.
– Kali White VanBaale, award-winning author of The Monsters We Make and The Good Divide
X.H. Collins’s first novel is a family epic full of lush detail and characters who carry us effortlessly through a multi-generational mystery. Readers who love to travel and learn by reading will be fascinated by the story of early 20th century China and the Chinese railway. Weaving in and out of narratives and time, Collins unites research and imagination in this intimate story celebrating our unshakable bonds to family.
– Felicia Schneiderhan, author of Newlyweds Afloat
The atmosphere for this book is masterfully set by a poem, a song, and a new-born baby’s cry. All too soon the child disappears into the night of 1891 China. In a modern-day Chicago the stage is set with Rose Ming’s breakup from a married man, the loss of her academic job, and the consoling trip back to California and her mother. Rose and her mother are drawn back to China and into a haunting mystery that spans generations.
– Mary Davidsaver, author of Clouds Over Bishop Hill
The lyrical prose of Xixuan Collins winds beautifully through the pages of Flowing Water, Falling Flowers. Choices made through love echo from century to century in this touching story rich in Chinese culture.
– Tom McKay, author of West Fork, Another Life, and The Old Guard
X.H. Collins crafts a masterful tale of intrigue and discovery that traverses lies, truths, spiritual intention, social interaction, and cultural revelation with an equally deft hand... offers a cultural, social, and psychological inspection that is as literary and compelling as its title. It is highly recommended as a journey of discovery and change that will appeal to anyone interested in the lasting impact of Chinese heritage and culture.
– D. Donovan, Senior Reviewer, Midwest Book Review
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It could be called a page-turner, but that term would not do just to passages of lyrical beauty, not to its engagement with serious themes. Collins successfully builds suspense in both time periods until the two story lines converge in a convincing and satisfyingly way.
- Fran Adams, US-China Review
Well-researched... Collins does bring to life sights, smells, and enticing food delicacies, both past and present...and the setting is beautiful to behold.
- J. Lynn Else
Historical Novel Society
Flowing Water, Falling Flowers is marketed as a love story, and that’s true. But it also centers around the strong bonds between sisters, cousins, mothers, and grandmothers, regardless of place and time. Most of all, perhaps, it’s a love letter to Collins’s birthplace and the importance it played in Chinese history 110 years ago.
- Susan Blumberg-Kason
Asian Review of Books
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Today's Hechuan, or "Three Rivers" in Flowing Water, Falling Flowers