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A luminous cross-generational story, this sweeping debut novel tells the tale of those who dare to challenge the boundaries of their circumscribed lives.

Four women, separated by time and distance—from rural Illinois to the far reaches of China—are forever changed by the disappearance of a missionary during the Boxer Rebellion.

In 1890, a young Addie has come with her husband to the mission town of Lu-cho Fu, dreaming of making her mark on the world. Duties to family threaten to constrict her sphere, but the arrival of a brash and thoroughly modern woman offers the opportunity to change her destiny, even as tensions between the Chinese and foreigners grow. All the while, letters from Addie reach her sister Louisa back home, recently married and struggling with the isolation of being a farmer’s wife. When violence erupts overseas, the sisters’ connection is forever severed.

By 1958, Louisa’s daughter Hazel is fighting to maintain control of her land and family in the aftermath of her husband’s sudden death. Reeling from the tragedy, she embarks on an affair with a neighbor and at the same time grows closer to his wife. Mirroring the experience of the aunt she never knew, Hazel learns that the tradeoff for some freedoms is more precious than expected.  

One hundred years after Addie’s disappearance, Juanlan returns to her hometown without any options. She finds her father ailing and her pregnant sister-in-law restless and angry, yet while China is rapidly changing, Juanlan feels frozen in place. In search of an outlet for the live wire she feels buried inside, she makes a reckless decision that threatens her own future.

Interconnected by action and consequence, each character’s tale takes up the fleeting intensity of youth, the obligation of family, and the dramatic consequence of charting your own destiny. A vibrant story of compassion and discovery set against a century of complicated relations between China and America, Rebellion celebrates those who fight against expectation in pursuit of their own thrilling fate.