I’m very excited that I’ll be talking about my new novel Petals from the Sky in Long and Short Review!
PFS is a poignant love story about a would-be Buddhist nun. Although there have been Buddhist nuns for 2,500 years, their stories are little known in the West.
I learned about the lives of Buddhist nuns from the inside. In my youth, I was befriended by a powerful nun in Hong Kong and groomed to be her successor because of my art and academic background.
A few Buddhist nuns spend their lives in solitary meditation on remote mountains. Yet others are billionaire fund-raisers running multinational organizations and hobnobbing with high society -- such as the abbess portrayed in my novel, whom I refer to as a “business nun.”
Girls become Buddhist nuns for several different reasons: Some feel an intense religious calling. Others have been wounded in their love life and want to find a refuge from an uncaring world. Most unlucky are those so poor their families cannot afford the extra bowl of rice to feed them. Some parents also believe that “donating” a daughter to a monastery will bring them merit.
I had a different reason for almost becoming a nun. I just craved to enter the rich and mysterious special world within the “empty gate” as nunneries are called.
My nun mentor, an accomplished artist herself, liked me because since my youth, I’d been trained in the four literary arts of poetry, music, painting and calligraphy. When I received my PhD from the University of Paris, Sorbonne, I was deemed perfect to be a head nun. In that era, few nuns had been to college and to have studied abroad was quite rare.
It was not until my late thirties that I ran into my future American husband whom I met in a Buddhist conference.
I still remember my mentor’s words to me right after she agreed to organize a Buddhist wedding for me, the first of its kind held in Hong Kong. Smiling somewhat bitterly, she said, “Tell your husband that he’s stolen you from us!”
Petals from the Sky is a moving love story about a young, aspiring Buddhist nun set in Hong Kong, Manhattan and Paris. It follows the success of my debut novel Peach Blossom Pavilion, story of the last Chinese Geisha.
This poignant story is inspired by my own life growing up with Buddhist nuns.
Watching her parents’ relationship disintegrate, even though it was based on love, Meng Ning decides to live the serene life of a nun to avoid the messiness of dealing with men.
Meng Ning spends years studying in Paris, disdaining men, and preparing to enter the nunnery. Then, a fire breaks out at her Buddhist retreat, and she is rescued by a young American doctor. The unprecedented physical contact stirs her curiosity. As their friendship grows intimate, Meng Ning must choose between the sensual and the spiritual life.
Meng Ning’s life becomes even more complicated when her nun mentor attempts to lure her back to the temple just after Meng Ning meets the doctor’s sinister former fiancée and is nearly seduced by his gorgeous best friend.
My hope is that after reading the book, readers will be awakened to the realization that true love, like any other worthy pursuit in life, needs constant, tireless cultivation.
For Mingmei’s novels, children’s book, art work and music, please visit: www.mingmeiyip.com