... a knockout short story collection ... fires on all cylinders. Hopscotching from San Francisco to China, each one of these 10 dizzyingly immersive stories offers up a heady and visceral portrait of what ails us, from isolation and self-doubt, to unrequited love and regret over what might have been, to what it means to be (and to be considered) an American ... What’s most impressive about Jin’s collection is the way she confidently moves from timeless theme to complex idea — even within stories — without missing a beat ... isn’t an uplifting read by any means, yet it is both bittersweet and beautiful. Jin’s stories are at once pungent and claustrophobic yet rife with clear-eyed observations about humanity’s flaws and failings, our insatiable need, our capacity to inflict pain and bestow joy upon others.
Following her extraordinary novel Little Gods (2020), Jin presents a fascinating 10-story collection...One-line drawings of profiles interrupt, switching directions as if cleverly reminding readers to shift perspectives...In 'Philip Is Dead,' the narrator insistently does not mourn a manipulative ex-lover...In 'Suffering,' a widow can’t trust her dead husband, her pretentious sister, or 'old and ugly' Mr. Fu, who wants to take care of her...In 'Self Portrait with Ghost,' a paternal aunt who was 'crazy' in life posthumously returns to talk books outside a library with her writer niece... Jin effortlessly navigates across generations, cultures, and borders to expose inequities, misunderstandings, and 'this America . . . in these "unprecedented times"'...The result proves deftly imaginative and brilliantly interrogative.
Jin returns with a provocative magical realist collection in which women fall in love, grieve, and figure out what to make of their lives amid constant changes...Many of these engrossing entries take inspiration from contemporary events such as the Covid-19 pandemic and the Trump presidency...Throughout, Jin toys with the concept of reality, which in the title story is malleable for its writer protagonist...There is beauty, wit, and pathos...This mystifying collection is a testament to Jin’s talent and versatility.