Tan's excellent debut follows loners and outcasts, and contains several metaphorical car crashes, one fake one and one actual, brutal, skid off the road. Born in Indonesia, Tan has lived in Hong Kong and the US and is now based in the UK. These 11 stories range over those territories, focusing both on obvious drama (murder, crucifixion, wild drug use) and the seemingly less consequential (a conversation between a rich child and her maid, an argument between two Iron Maiden-loving teenagers) ... There's plenty of darkness and a sprinkling of magic, and these strange, flinty, cigarette-stained narratives speed by, offering lots of surface tension and compelling deeper passions.
May-Lan Tan’s Things to Make and Break is all about sex—or is it? What is sex but the search for the right connection? Sometimes people get it right; more often they—we—cross lines and break rules. We break things. Tan’s treatment of intimacy in this collection of graciously detailed short stories embraces a variety of sexual experience: from sexual abuse to attempted sexual healing, from sadomasochism to a teenager’s first flushes of jealousy. Tan doesn’t limit herself to one gender perspective or one sexual orientation. Things to Make and Break is omnisexual, and it’s mind-blowingly good.
With the eerie precision of oversaturated snapshots, each of Tan’s stories captures a different moment of desperation—some otherworldly, others deceptively mundane ... Formatted like a movie script and taking up nearly 50 pages, Candy Glass is perhaps the most quietly affecting story in the collection, and the loneliest, about a Hollywood actress who falls for her stunt double ... Visceral and demanding; an unsettling collection that knocks you off balance.