This fictional and humorous narrative follows a young boy growing up in China through the Cultural Revolution and then through the economic reforms of the 1980s. The book excels a producing exaggerated and comical portrayals of the suffering of Chinese during the 1960s. Some deaths are truly macabre, as people are beaten to death in the streets, others are humorous: drowning in a trench of feces whilst trying to look at womens' bottoms. this book is written to shock and to make you laugh. Common themes that prevail include the small boy repeatedly being asked to masturbate against electricity pylons by villagers for entertainment. Maybe the humor caters to the lowest denominator, but I laughed a lot.
Although this is a work of fiction, it is based on his own experience growing up in rural Zhejiang. As such, there is plenty to learn about living in a Chinese village on the poverty line.