A stunningly inventive, deeply moving fiction debut: stories that take us from the slums of Colombia to the streets of Tehran; from New York City to Iowa City; from a tiny fishing village in Australia to a foundering vessel in the South China Sea, in a masterly display of literary virtuosity and feeling.In the magnificent opening story, "Love and Honor and Pity and Pride and Compassion and Sacrifice", a young writer is urged by his friends to mine his father's experiences in Vietnam - and what seems at first a satire of turning one's life into literary commerce becomes a transcendent exploration of homeland and the ties between father and son. "Cartagena" provides a visceral glimpse of life in Colombia as it enters the mind of a 14-year-old hit man facing the ultimate test. In "Meeting Elise", an aging New York painter mourns his body's decline as he prepares to meet his daughter on the eve of her Carnegie Hall debut. And with graceful symmetry, the final, title story returns to Vietnam, to a fishing trawler crowded with refugees, where a young woman's bond with a mother and her small son forces both women to a shattering decision.Brilliant, daring, and demonstrating a jaw-dropping versatility of voice and point of view, The Boat is an extraordinary work of fiction that takes us to the heart of what it means to be human, and announces a writer of astonishing gifts.More
Readers of contemporary fiction, followers of ethnic lit, and lovers of short stories, take note: Nam Le's debut collection is a must-listen. Winner of the Dylan Thomas Prize and a New York Times Notable Book of 2008, this collection of seven stories covers vast geographic territory from Vietnam to Australia to Tehran to Iowa to New York City. And though there's no common theme, there are links: solid writing, transparent emotion, and astute observation. In the opening tale, "Love and Honor and Pity and Pride and Compassion and Sacrifice", the Vietnam-born, Australian-raised Le touches upon the responsibilities of ethnicity through a character named Nam at the Iowa Writers Workshop. "You could totally exploit the Vietnamese thing," a fellow student tells Nam. "Ethnic literature is hot now, and important," says another. The story touches on satire, but hits a truer note, as does the rest of the book.
The protagonists are so disparate a 14-year-old assassin in Bogota, Colombia; a Japanese child in 1945 Hiroshima; a young American woman visiting a friend in Tehran it's delightful to hear them in their own voices. The seven narrators give each story its own sound that fits the main characters, letting you sink deeply into the worlds. Henry Strozier, as the narrator of "Meeting Elise", is particularly effective, using his gravelly voice to portray a prickly, aging New York City painter who's about to meet his estranged daughter for the first time just as he receives a cancer diagnosis and longs for his dead lover. Gideon Emery reads "Halfhead Bay" about an Australian teenager struggling with first love and the imminent death of his mother, in a boyish Australian accent. The depths these stories reach in a brief time make The Boat perfect for those who want to escape their days, in hour-long blocks. Kelly Marages
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well-crafted, wears literary aspirations on sleeve