After watching Ang Li’s adaptation, I decided to read the book. It was enlightening because I realized how much of what I liked about the movie was Li’s invention. What stood out for me: the spirituality of the movie, which seemed so extreme, is actually a renunciation of the even more extreme religiosity of the novel, and one that foregrounds the human agency of the story.
I got halfway through this book and stopped reading. It is well written, but the adaptation is so close that I was reading for the bits that weren’t in the film…and those bits were obnoxious to me.
(This is too harsh a comment on the book which really is quite good…but not for me.)