THE TRAIN TO LO WU: Stories
No one quite understands anyone else in Row's Hong Kong, a city suffused by a pervasive sense of alienation. In the seven stories of this debut collection, Row's protagonists—American expats and locals alike—flail about, either helplessly or harmfully, as blind as Alice in the first story, "The Secrets of Bats," who wanders around in a blindfold, trying to gain a bat's sense of orientation. The narrator of the title story, a wealthy man from Hong Kong, falls in love with a Chinese woman named Lin. Political strictures make their situation difficult, but cultural differences ultimately divide them. The narrator (whose family has lived in Hong Kong for five generations) is optimistic and resourceful; Lin (crushed all her life by the Chinese system) cannot abandon her pessimism. In "For You," the marriage of an American couple disintegrates after they move to Hong Kong, and the husband, Lewis, temporarily joins a Buddhist monastery—just one example of the way personal breakdowns tend to follow political displacement in Row's stories. At the monastery, Lewis is told: "Mistakes are your mirror.... They reflect your mind. Don't try to slip away from them." In sharp, lucid prose, Row molds a landscape of human error and uncertainty, territory well-aligned with the eerie topography of his space-age city. Agent, Elyse Cheney. (Feb. 1)
Forecast: This is another fine addition to a growing class of fiction by young Americans with experience abroad—see also John Dalton's Heaven Lake, Nell Freudenberger's Lucky Girls and Rattawut Lapcharoensap's Sightseeing.