Under Fishbone Clouds

Sam Meekings

Thomas Dunne Books

            Under Fishbone Clouds is a universal love story, a family saga, and a journey through Chinese history, myth, and culture.  Following a young Chinese couple as their love grows, and is tested, during Mao's Cultural Revolution, this elegant debut novel provides a rare and personal glimpse into the birth modern China.

When the Kitchen God is challenged by the Jade Emperor to fathom the workings of the human heart, he chooses to follow the life of Jinyi and his wife Yuying, from their blossoming love until their old age, in hope of finding an answer. The Kitchen God watches as the new government strictures split their family in two, living inside their hearts as they they endure the loss of two children, homesickness, and isolation, all while keeping alive a love that survives famine, forced labor, and even death. Weaving together the story of their life with China’s recent political history, as well as traditional folktales and myths, the Kitchen God illuminates the most impenetrable aspects the human condition.

Sam Meekings's remarkable debut novel showcases his luminous, poetic writing, as well as insights that belong to a writer twice his age. Part love story and part historical narrative, Under Fishbone Clouds carries the weight and beauty of a lifetime's achievement.


Read an Excerpt


The Year of the Dog

Beginnings are always difficult, especially when you have lived as long as I have. I could start by telling you that this is a simple story about two hearts and the way they are intertwined. But that won’t do. The Jade Emperor would not like that at all. I think I will have to go a little further back.

In a small border town huddled at the furthest reaches of a northern province, there was an old teahouse. It was winter there, thousands of years ago. And inside was the owner, his face flushed despite the frost that



Praise for Under Fishbone Clouds

“A powerful and mesmerizing novel, both mythic and intimate.  Sam Meekings has a maturity of insight and theme not commonly found in a young writer.  This is a masterful accomplishment of imagination, insight, and lyricism.”   --Amy Tan, New York Times bestselling author of The Joy Luck Club

“One of the great delights in life is the discovery of a new novelist of obvious talent. Sam Meekings’ debut novel, Under Fishbone Clouds is one such discovery – utterly beautiful and memorable… This is very fine storytelling that handles, with great care, life often at its most raw. Meekings presents us with the gift of a brilliant debut novel.” --Alexander McCall Smith, New York Times bestselling author of the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency series

“Meekings’s accomplished first novel is based on the lives of his Chinese wife’s grandparents. An unlikely love story set against the events of the last half-century in China, it’s a tale of terrible suffering that also manages to be a poetic evocation of the country and its people…His exuberance and verve win out. He imbues “Under Fishbone Clouds” with a magical atmosphere.” --The New York Times

"Meekings is a bangup storyteller, and his easy handling of rich and varied material--rustic splendor, class warfare, profound anguish, drastic social changes--will keep readers rapt. This is a beautifully told love story as well as an absorbing study in Chinese folklore and history." --Publishers Weekly, starred review

"As utterly engrossing as it is well penned, this is a wonderful debut about the lengths that love can take us." --Booklist, starred review

"An affecting, useful revisiting of not-so-distant events, capably handled by a skillful, empathetic storyteller." --Kirkus

“Lavishly imagined and skillfully narrated.”
--The Independent (UK)

"Beautifully written, it is an enthralling debut." --Waterstones Book Quarterly

"Hails the arrival of an intriguing new talent." –Scotland Herald

“Nuanced, alert and intelligent” --Scotland on Sunday

“This intricate tale of love, folklore and one of the most turbulent and terrible times in modern history is as beautifully woven as a silk tapestry.” - The Lady


Reviews from Goodreads



  • Sam Meekings

  • SAM MEEKINGS received his undergraduate degree in Modern History and English Literature from Oxford University, and his masters degree in Creative Writing from Edinburgh University. Originally from southern England, he now lives in China with his wife and two children. Under Fishbone Clouds is his first novel.

  • Sam Meekings





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    Under Fishbone Clouds

    Sam Meekings

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    Thomas Dunne Books