The author of The Resisters returns with a short-fiction collection with 11 linked stories tracing the intimate ways in which humans make and are made by history, beginning with a letter penned by a Chinese girl in heaven to hell-damned Richard Nixon, whom she met on his 1972 visit to China.
There is humor here, some of it pointed ... The stories are linked ingeniously, with minor subplots returning to major effect as the book moves forward through time, and people who seemed marginal on one page appearing later to take center stage ... A later set of protests, those in Hong Kong, become the setting of one of the book’s most heartbreaking arcs, a kind of authorial tour-de-force as we mostly understand it through hints and suggestions, culminating in the breathtaking final story, 'Detective Dog' ... Jen, whose previous fiction has often plied the territory of second-generation American children of Chinese immigrants, here creates a panoramic universe of deftly sketched tales both comic and tragic. Her prose sparkles with clarity and moves with deceptive simplicity toward profound conclusions. This is a collection to treasure.
... a jewel box of creativity and a joy to uncover. Across 11 synergistic stories about interconnected families, Jen creates a sort of episodic epic spanning 50 years, from Nixon's historic visit to China in 1972 through the umbrella protests in Hong Kong early in the pandemic ... Jen subtly draws attention to all these perceptions of difference, those based on race as well as on age, values, class and immigration status ... These stories offer valuable insight into our world, which feels increasingly divided in countless ways. Surely everyone—us and them, whoever they are—would benefit if together we read what Jen has to say.
There are 11 [stories] here – insightful, wistful, nuanced – sometimes heartbreaking and often funny. Each tale packs in social commentary, political asides, and keen observations that lodge the characters in time and place like thumbtacks on a map. Even more satisfying, these very different women, men, and children get more than a moment in the sun ... Jen’s stories prove engrossing thanks to her polished prose and multifaceted characters. Equally riveting is the fearless way she dives into fraught, ripped-from-the headlines topics ... In this collection, Jen stares down history with a discerning eye, cracking wit and well-tuned words.