In a country where men dominate, this epic novel is first and foremost about women. As the title implies, the female body serves as the book’s most important image and metaphor. The protagonist, Mother, is born in 1900. Married at 17 into the Shangguan family, she has nine children, only one of whom is a boy, the narrator of the book, a spoiled and ineffectual child who stands in stark contrast to his eight strong and forceful female siblings. Mother, a survivor, is the quintessential strong woman, who risks her life to save the lives of several of her children and grandchildren. The writing is full of life-picturesque, bawdy, shocking, imaginative. Each of the seven chapters represents a different time period, from the end of the Qing dynasty up through the Japanese invasion in the 1930s, the civil war, the Cultural Revolution, and the post-Mao years. In sum, this stunning novel is Mo Yan’s searing vision of 20th-century China.