The "Sansan" of the book is Bette Bao Lord's sister, youngest of three children. When their father left China in 1946 to take a position in the US, he had to leave his family behind. Eventually, their mother was able to join him and brought the two older daughters with her. Sansan, who was barely a year old, was left with an aunt. The family thought the separation would be for a year or two at the most. But after the revolution and the establishment of the People’s Republic of China, it was impossible for them to return or for Sansan to leave the country. The family was not reunited until 16 years later.
The story was simple and touching. It’s not anything I hadn’t read before about life in China under Mao Zedong, but I was reminded again of what happens when ideology becomes more important than individual lives and how precious personal liberty is.