Book Recommendation: ‘Sky Burial’ by Xinran

Posted by on 03.28.07 | No Comments
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Hi friends–

On the way to WomenSpeak in San Antonio, I brought a short book that a friend recommended. I read it on the plane, couldn’t put it down. It was the perfect appetizer for the banquet that was WomenSpeak…

Sky Burial shakes my reluctantly but inevitably Western mind like a dog with a juicy, greasy bone. It is a biography of great faithfulness and of being guided truly and gently by ancestral wisdom to the ‘pearl of great price’. The author, Xinran, writes of Shu Wen, a Chinese woman searching for her lost husband. The couple had been married just a few short months before his deployment as a physician to Tibet during the 1959 Chinese ‘unification’ drive. When he is declared dead a few months later, Shu Wen leaves her home and family, knowing that she may never see them again, and travels to Tibet to find what has happened to her husband. This pilgrimage is unheard of by women of her day, especially to such a foreign culture as Tibet was to China. Shu-Wen spends the next four decades in search of the truth about what happened to her husband. What she finds is the emptiness and great beauty of the Tibetan landscape, the fullness of deep friendships with the Tibetan family of which she becomes a part, and finally, the truth about her husband’s death. It is an unforgettable journey of love, loss, loyalty and forgiveness.

What moved me most was Shu Wen’s enduring faithfulness…and the depth of saying ‘yes’ to whatever life brought to her. As I completed the book, I was struck with how much resistance I have to just letting life lead me–and it always leads me/us home…what’s to resist? Also, deep gratitude for Shu-Wen’s story, and for Xinran’s shepherding the story out into the world. Even though the book is subtitled, ‘An Epic Love Story of Tibet’, I hesitate to write that, as it somehow westernizes the story. This is not the story of a Western woman.

If you read and enjoy it (or don’t enjoy it for that matter!), write me a note and let me know your thoughts.

We will be having a regular feature on the front page of the VTH website for recommended books. If you want to make recommendations for that feature, send me a note thru the site (you can also do that at or )


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