Chasing Down the Moon
Carla Baku, author
In 1883, a young Chinese woman is sold to human traffickers and taken from her family and home in the mountains of Hunan. In San Francisco, Ya Zhen is sold to a hotelier and sent to Eureka, a remote area of coastal California, where she must serve as an indentured prostitute. A small group of friends, determined to help Ya Zhen escape, is thwarted when a terrible accident precipitates the upheaval of the entire town and the clock starts ticking for everyone.
Based on the actual Chinese expulsion of 1885, Baku’s first novel is richly textured and well-crafted, with the setting of 19th-century Eureka, Calif. described with commendable accuracy. A young Chinese girl, Ya Zhen, is sold by her father and brought on a hellish journey from China to Eureka, where she is forced into prostitution. Rose Allen, who four years previously voluntarily relocated to Eureka from Illinois to live with her aunt, relishes her freedom and falls in love with Bai Lum, the proprietor of the Chinese mercantile. Together they try to help Ya Zhen. Rose and Bai Lum’s love is forbidden, and the situation gets worse when an anti-immigrant uproar begins after a white man is murdered. The Chinese residents of Eureka are blamed and the entire population is threatened. Both historical and fictional characters thrive under Baku’s hand. The novel resonates with current issues such as nationalism, immigration, and the oppression of women. In the hands of a less talented author, this heart-wrenching type of story could have fallen short, but fortunately, Baku comes through. (BookLife)