"I also had the opportunity to drive through rural areas, explore farm villages, and observe the people and their daily activities."

Over nearly nine hundred pages, Riley shares life experiences that span four decades. What makes this text so compelling is the simultaneous depiction of the author’s autobiographical journey with China’s journey from underdevelopment to ultra modernity. His various experiences amount to almost two dozen visits as a government employee as well as through his affiliation with the Florida Splendid Theme Park and the China adult education program of Stetson University.

Riley’s voice is refreshing, a fusion of humor and awe, as he ventures through China’s less-heralded gems. Without question, his work is a walking history book, with anecdotes such as his recounting of Henry Kissinger asking, “How would you like to go to China?” during a water cooler conversation. Such recollections provide a glimpse into society from a drastically different perspective than found in the news media or history textbooks.

In May 1961, Riley’s fascination for Asia led to a Vietnam trip that facilitated an introduction to his wife. Up until 2001, Riley created tapes of observations that took China from its economic infancy to its more contemporary role as the world’s second-largest economy. The author’s view of 1973 Shanghai and modern Shanghai have arguably the greatest contrast. In particular, Riley describes a Shanghai riverfront of skyscrapers and the tallest television tower in all of Asia that once was nothing more than rice paddies and fish ponds.

Readers will gravitate towards the author’s distinctly personal experiences. From taking his daughter shopping for her first bike in Peking and riding a Kazakh pony up a mountain to experiencing underground dining in Harbin and the Kashi International Bazaar, much of China’s progression is experienced firsthand by the author. Seeing Riley and China grow together builds an instant connection with audiences that will leave readers wanting more.

RECOMMENDED by the US Review

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