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The Train to Lo Wu Paperback – January 31, 2006

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Dial Press Trade Paperback; Reprint edition (January 31, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385337906
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385337908
  • Product Dimensions: 8.6 x 5.3 x 0.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,181,075 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

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.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Booklist

Debuting author Row makes new the archetypal theme of a stranger in a strange land in his seven tales of outsiders struggling to decode the mysteries of Hong Kong. In crystalline prose, Whiting Award winner Row animates intriguing and unpredictable characters and dramatizes subtle yet emblematic conflicts as he traces the vast cultural divides between America and Hong Kong, and cosmopolitan Hong Kong and locked-down mainland China. A young American man teaching English in a Chinese girls' school is baffled and seduced by a 16-year-old's potentially dangerous obsession with echolocation in the exquisite "The Secrets of Bats." In "The American Girl," a blind Chinese masseur puts up with the bossy insensitivity of an American graduate student who forces him to recall the brutal violence his family faced during the Cultural Revolution. In the title story, a well-off Hong Kong man becomes involved with a woman from Shenzhen whose life is cruelly proscribed. As Row choreographs thorny negotiations between naive newcomers and guarded insiders, he neatly and devastatingly contrasts dueling visions of faith, art, love, and freedom. Donna Seaman
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars
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See all 11 customer reviews
The writing is not bad, but the contents and plots left much to be desired.
The stories are wonderfully written, and include beautifully realized descriptions of the Hong Kong landscape and the people who populate it.
The Ferry - 24 pp - A great story about two black lawyers who are exploited in different ways by a prestigious, predominantly white firm.
J. Luiz

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By J. Luiz on July 17, 2011
Format: Paperback
I almost gave up on this collection after reading the first two stories. I knew from the dust jacket that all the stories were set in Hong Kong, and two of the central characters in those stories - a 16-year-old girl and an 80-year-old masseuse -- have limited English skills, so their dialogue with the Americans they encounter is written in broken English. Those stories are both very powerful, but I wasn't sure if I could stand 200 pages of what, even in the hands of a writer as skillful as Row sounds like Charlie Chan movie dialogue. Fortunately, for me anyway, the first 2 stories are the only ones with those character-imposed dialogue constraints. It really is quite a powerful collection. All the topics you'd expect from stories in this setting are covered -- Zen Buddhism, the long-lasting and devastating impact of the Cultural Revolution, and the odd historical and political relationship between Hong Kong and China. But all of the stories took me places I'd never been before. Row offers wonderful descriptions of the city, and all of his characters have an incredible amount of integrity, as they struggle with their attempt to cope with their traumatic personal histories or the difficulty of making long-lasting personal connections.

The 7 stories in the collection are:

1. The Secrets of Bats - 21 pp - An English teacher in Hong Kong tries to understand a project undertaken by a 16-year-old student whose mother committed suicide. The girl walks around with a headband over her eyes, trying to see and navigate her world the way bats do, without the benefit of sight. There is a Chinese superstition that the ghosts of suicides wander the world, so the girl may be trying to "see" her mother.

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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Chris Owens on August 18, 2005
Format: Hardcover
I've read and re-read several stories in this collection several times - standouts include: "Train to Lo Wu", "Heaven Lake", and "Secret of Bats". Not only are these stories completely original, and moreso, completely convincing in their delivery, but they are also very easy to read - enough so that I have recommended this book to many who don't often read short stories, and they have all loved it very much. I really can't say enough nice things about these stories - clearly this collection is one of the standouts of the last few years, and is gaining popularity among readers. Some have remarked how there's not enough about Hong Kong here - they've missed the point, I'm sorry to say. Regardless of class, race or gender, these stories deal with subjects to which we all can relate - isolation, compassion, mistrust, love - and each story in this collection resonates as finely as the tines of a tuning fork. I would recommend it to anyone who likes fine writing, effective story telling, and strong subject matter.
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3 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Steve Koss VINE VOICE on August 28, 2006
Format: Paperback
THE TRAIN TO LO WU is a collection of seven short stories, all previously published, and all ostensibly focused on life in, or connected with, Hong Kong. The protagonists in nearly every instance are Westerners - an American English teacher from an upper class suburb of New York City, a white female college student looking for material for a paper she is writing, a black lawyer from Yonkers sent to Hong Kong to fire his firm's first black partner, a Caucasian photographer who has left his work-addicted Caucasian wife back in Hong Kong while he seeks meaning (and perhaps salvation of his marriage) at a Buddhist monastery. All are outsiders to Chinese life and culture. Some want to help, and others rationalize their behavior by convincing themselves they are helping. Some want to understand China, and others seek to understand themselves. Still others view Hong Kong as merely a backdrop (or a metaphor) for their own lives and their own ends.

Jess Row's stories deal largely with issues of identity and belonging, apropos of an island that is as much British as it is Chinese and is now a Chinese possession while trying not to be too Chinese. His stories also abound in cultural misunderstandings, the foreigners forever outsiders who apply their own world-views and standards, often with the best of intentions, only to find that they have hurt those they sought to help. Many of his characters are broken, either spiritually or physically, afflicted with blindness, spiritual malaise, and shattered knees, or, like the Lowenbrau beer girl Lin in the title story, hopelessly lost and looking for a purpose in life other than hawking beer and serving as a Shenzhen mistress for some rich Hong Kong businessman.
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By Lydia on June 30, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I don't think anyone who reads the Bats story will ever forget it. Jess Row's evocative abilities are magical, and I would so love to see more from him.

The stories are all set in Asia, but to say that makes it sound like only people with an interest in Asia will enjoy them. I have no more interest in Asia than in any other part of the world, but I devoured these stories for their ability to create vivid characters, while at the same time not making them utterly knowable.

Then I passed the book off to my husband. He and I rarely agree on books, though we keep trying to share them. This was just as much a hit with him, and we agreed that it is a real page-turner, even while it leaves much unknowable.
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