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Allegra Goodman’s novels include The Cookbook Collector, Intuition and Kaaterskill Falls. Her fiction has appeared in The New Yorker and Best American Short Stories. She is a winner of the Whiting Writer’s Award and a fellowship at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study. She lives with her family in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Read her review of World and Town:
Gish Jen sets her novel in a small Vermont town, but extends her reach to the larger world when she writes about Hattie Kong and her new neighbors, a Cambodian family trying to start over after suffering from the traumas of war and the temptations of American city life.
Hattie has retreated to Riverlake in part for solitude, but she finds herself caught up in her neighbors’ struggles. Teenagers Sarun and Sophy try to forge American identities, even as their parents fear for their lives and souls. Slowly, Hattie begins to understand her neighbors’ history, and she sees that they are living with ghosts from their terrible past. At the same time, Hattie’s first love, Carter, appears on the scene, and she must come to terms with ghosts of her own.
I love the voices in this book--each compelling, each contributing to the layered story. I love Gish Jen’s sense of history as both personal and political, intimate and communal. The novel is powerful but also subtle and wise in its use of multiple points of view. It’s a book that begins with grief: Hattie is mourning her husband and her best friend, her neighbors grieve for what they lost in Cambodia. But grief is only a beginning. This is really a novel about survival and reconciliation.
Another writer might fall into sentimentality, bathos, or wish-fulfilling fantasy, but Gish never condescends to her characters. Their traumas and their mistakes, their self-deceptions, and their hard-earned victories read as utterly real. You will find yourself swept up and completely absorbed by this polyphonic and immensely moving novel. The world is Gish Jen’s stage. Her town becomes a theater in the round.
This is such an interesting read. The characters and knowledge of the author are amazing. I have never read anything quite like this.Published 7 months ago by mary musalo
This book was recommended by an English teacher. I really disliked this book. It was about a town full of miserable people from start to finish. Read morePublished 16 months ago by Merle Lundy
I experienced this book through the audiobook version and I enjoyed the experience thoroughly.
Hattie, the center of the novel, is a woman living through the last chapter of... Read more
I enjoyed this book, despite being lengthy. The only thing that bothered me was, I still felt a piece missing from Hattie, as if the author held her back even until the book was... Read morePublished on December 5, 2012 by Wonder_Vegan
I picked this book up because I really enjoyed "The Love Wife" by the same author. This book started off very slow, but I kept reading because I enjoyed the other book so much and... Read morePublished on November 25, 2012 by J Davis
This is a book that you get into very slowly. I put it down several times before I picked it back up again. Read morePublished on November 5, 2012 by Aliza M. Beer
I have read all of Gish Jen's novels with great interest and pleasure, and had particularly loved Mona in the Promised Land and Love Wife. Read morePublished on November 27, 2011 by greatblue
A lot of what goes on in this book, about a retired teacher in a New England town, is about resolving issues with the past and coping with the present. Read morePublished on July 1, 2011 by Amazon Customer
At first I enjoyed this novel and Gish's writing, but I eventually got tired of the characters. Perhaps the novel should have been shorter and more focused, maybe eliminate Sarun. Read morePublished on April 16, 2011 by algo41