cover image The Sorrows of Others

The Sorrows of Others

Ada Zhang. A Public Space, $18 trade paper (160p) ISBN 978-1-73637-096-4

Zhang debuts with a remarkable collection that explores the intricacies of Chinese American families. In “Any Good Wife,” a woman makes an effort to assimilate in Tucson, Ariz., in the months after emigrating from China. She gets a perm, listens to rock music, and makes a Jell-O salad for her confused husband (“ ‘The food is trapped?’ he’d asked, wondering if this was a joke or a game. ‘How do I get to it?’ ”). In “Knowing,” a Texas family welcomes an old friend from China who survived the Cultural Revolution, prompting the child narrator to ask what it was like. Her mother, maintaining a strong connection to the past, replies, “You shouldn’t talk of death like it’s the easiest thing in the world.” With methodical pacing and precise details, Zhang locates the reasons why the narrator’s mother often shuts her out. The art student narrator of “The Subject” gains perspective on the quirky behavior of her roommate, an elderly Chinese woman who insists on picking up trash on their street in the dead of winter. The narrator also possesses a fascinating self-awareness, as when she reflects on her reasons to live frugally, which gives her an air of authenticity among her friends (“The hipsters would nod and drink their beers, smug in the idea that there was a real one among us”). Zhang’s crystalline stories ring with moments of surprising truth about her characters’ lives. This will stay with readers. Agent: David McCormick, McCormick Literary. (May)