REVIEW: Dr. Jean Tren-Hwa Perkins — Spring Flower Book 1: 1931–1951 — A Tale of Two Rivers (BOOK)

Colin Jordan
3 min readFeb 9, 2024

“An image of the Hudson River outside my bedroom window in South Yonkers flashed before my eyes as the steamer pierced through the riverbed, creating huge splashes against the side of the ship. As I watched the water flowing eastward, I remembered an old Chinese saying: ‘Only the waters of the Yangtze River surging east can understand my heart’,” writes Dr. Jean Tren-Hwa Perkins. It’s a particularly moving part of her compiled memoir, arranged by her son Dr. Richard Perkins Hsung, titled Spring Flower Book 1: 1931–1951 — A Tale of Two Rivers. In the book, Dr. Perkins describes in vivid detail her adoption after the Yangtze River flood by medical missionaries, her subsequently barring from the United States, and her struggle to survive in a newly formed, communist China. Against all odds, Dr. Perkins managed a successful career in ophthalmology, and became an example of something akin to Logotherapy, an approach refined by Viktor Frankl in his work Man’s Search for Meaning. Perkins writes with this unapologetic, straightforward candor. When hope arises, you feel it as a reader in a truly genuine sense.

When she falls, or when grief hits, it permeates into the marrow of your bones. It’s the succinctness and bell-clear eloquence that makes all of the emotion, the hardship, and the world Dr. Perkins lives in come so vividly alive. In many ways, her ability to simply show the reader in real-time draws one in closer. This is reflected in especially harrowing passages, such as the following: “After a week in Shanghai, we finally got on a Yangtze River steamer. Leaning against the rail, staring at the river, I thought about my early years living in Kiukiang. Would my childhood friends remember me? Would I recognize them? Suddenly I became nostalgic. The sparkling reflection of the sun on the water was mesmerizing, and I remained in deep thought.”

AMAZON: https://www.amazon.com/Spring-Flower-Book-Tale-Rivers/dp/9888552848

Dr. Perkins also writes, “I had two sets of parents. The first gave me birth; the second gave me life. My adoptive parents were Dr. and Mrs. Edward C. Perkins. In 1918, my American parents opened the first clinic for men, Water of Life Hospital (WLH: 九江生命活水醫院), in Kiukiang, Kiangsi Province (九江, 江西: Jiujiang and Jiangxi in the pinyin romanization system used today), a rural town on the southern banks of the Yangtze River in Central China… Without their love and tender care, I wouldn’t be alive to this day. And thanks to them, I was given a small role to play in this world…

Since ancient times, the Great Yangtze River has provided “water of life” for the dense populations of the Southwest, Central, and Eastern regions of China. Wars came and went, and dynasties (朝代) changed hands and names every few centuries, but the great river has always been there… The history of the river has not always been one of beauty, ingenuity, and courage. It also includes the Great Yangtze River Flood (長江洪水泛濫) of 1931, one of the deadliest natural disasters of the twentieth century. For millennia, the Chinese struggled against floods, but this one killed nearly four million people from drowning, post-flood starvation, and the spread of infectious diseases.”

Through these trials and tribulations, Dr. Perkins has emerged at times battered, but never broken. That resolute spirit really shines through the text, and adds to what makes the book — cover to cover — so oddly uplifting, inspirational, and worth reading.

Colin Jordan

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Colin Jordan

Graduate: McNeese State University, Avid Beekeeper, Deep Sea Diver & Fisherman, Horrible Golfer