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The Hundred-Year Flood Hardcover – September 1, 2015
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A Millions Most Anticipated Book of 2015 A Buzzfeed Pick for 17 Awesome New Books You Need to Read This Fall A Refinery29 Pick for Best Summer Reading A Gawker Review of Books Pick for 9 Must-Reads for the Fall
“Salesses’s novel dramatically documents how longing can turn, painfully, into love.” —The Millions, Most Anticipated 2015 Book Preview
“What carries us through the novel is Salesses’s gift for language: here is a meditative, poetic, modern fable crafted in haunting bursts of impressionistic prose.” —Kirkus Reviews
“Through dreamlike language, Salesses toys with our human need to control forces that are larger than us: the flood, secrets, the past, disease, the inevitability of the reality one creates for one’s self. The novel holds a meditative, reflective pace.” —Kirkus Reviews, feature interview
“Salesses delivers an immersive novel about identity, myths, and ghosts...This is an engulfing read.” —Publishers Weekly
“The novel is not only a well-rendered exploration of identity, pain, and love, but also an expertly paced story, incredibly engaging throughout.” —Askmen.com
“The Hundred-Year Flood is admirable for what it tackles, for the depth of its subject, for the risks it takes with structure, for the love triangle it quickly establishes and charges with tension, for the questions it raises about what we inherit from our parents, known or unknown, and how we ground ourselves when we’ve been living on top of lies and murky beginnings—on rising, threatening waters, you might say.” —The Rumpus
“Tee is in Prague. He is running away from memory. He is running toward myth. He is searching. In Prague, Tee meets an artist and the artist's wife. Before long, the three are drawn into a fateful series of events as Prague is laid bare by a flood that only comes every hundred years. This beautiful debut novel by Matthew Salesses is much like that flood—epic and devastating and full of natural majesty.” —Roxane Gay, author of Untamed State and Bad Feminist
"The Hundred-Year Flood yanks you off your feet, whipping you along on a brilliantly crafted adventure. You can’t fight the current and you don’t want to, either. Matthew Salesses is a new force of nature.” —Mat Johnson, author of Loving Day
“A filmic, fast-moving, disjunctive ride, The Hundred-Year Flood rollicks through an exquisitely constructed plot to arrive at a surprising destination. Matthew Salesses writes taut, intelligent, lyrical sentences. He is definitely a writer to watch, and The Hundred-Year Flood is the novel to read right this moment.” —Robert Boswell, author of Tumbledown and The Heyday of the Insensitive Bastards
“Matthew Salesses’s elegant debut is at once both minimalist and expansive, atmospheric yet grounded in vivid, astonishing details. The Hundred-Year Flood captures life distilled to its purest, most potent form. I’ll be thinking about this story for many years to come.” —Kirstin Chen, author of Soy Sauce for Beginners
“The Hundred-Year Flood spins the gorgeous and devastating tale of Tee’s quest to find his place in the world amidst the richly haunted landscape of Prague. This is a phenomenally engrossing novel, cast in prose that is at once searing and poetic, and Matthew Salesses is a once in a lifetime talent.” —Laura van den Berg, author of The Isle of Youth and Find Me
“How artfully Matthew Salesses transports his reader between Prague and the States, past and present. I fell under the spell of his lovely novel as thoroughly as his protagonist, Tee, falls under the spell of Prague and, in particular, of one of its inhabitants. The Hundred-Year Flood is a vivid, cunning, compelling narrative about inheritance and forgiveness. A wonderful debut.” —Margot Livesey, author of The Flight of Gemma Hardy
“The Hundred-Year Flood is a beautifully wrought novel about a young man who goes on a quest for self-discovery and finds himself in a city of legends, demons, and saints. Here, Tee struggles to reconcile his desire to belong with his desire to be free—his desire to be someone with his desire to be no one at all. This book is a deep, wonderful, and incredibly complex investigation into the necessary and fertile tension between resistance and submission, attraction and repulsion, and the need to create versus the need to annihilate. Poetic and dreamlike, aching with loss, and filled with the strange and enduring power of myth, The Hundred-Year Flood builds and builds until everything—the characters, their histories, their relationships and animosities, and even the city in which they live, are borne up, taken over, and forever changed by the inevitable and unpredictable tide of fate. This is an exquisite, unforgettable book about the extraordinary demands of identity and the transformative power of art and love.” —Catherine Chung, author of Forgotten Country
“The Hundred-Year Flood is a beautiful, transporting novel that lays bare the heartbreak and loss of the world while never forgetting its magic. A dreamlike exploration of how the myths and stories we tell—and those that we choose to keep to ourselves—forge our identities, this book will swallow you whole.” —James Scott, author of The Kept
“In this spellbinding novel, Matthew Salesses artfully weaves an intricate tapestry, shifting effortlessly between time, place, and identity while exploring all three subjects in the process. He succeeds in transporting the reader to a ghost Prague—a timeless, kaleidoscopic city layered with wonder and devastating sorrow.” —Kenneth Calhoun, author of Black Moon
“The Hundred-Year Flood is an incredible literary achievement. It’s not often you find a novel that is capable of accomplishing such conceptual sophistication while maintaining the narrative force of compelling fiction. At times poetic and emotional, at times brutal and devastating, this intricate tale about identity, loss, love, and purpose is a force to be reckoned with and an absolute pleasure to read." —Mario Alberto Zambrano, author of Loteria: A Novel (P.S.)
“Like the water that threatens to consume everything in its wake, the narrative is lyrical and winding, but if you have an affinity for soul-searching sagas, The Hundred-Year Flood is for you.”—Gawker Review of Books
About the Author
Matthew Salesses was adopted from Korea at age two. He has written about adoption and race for NPR Code Switch, the New York Times Motherlode blog, and Salon, and his fiction has appeared in Guernica/PEN, Glimmer Train, and American Short Fiction, among others. He is the fiction editor and a contributing writer at the Good Men Project. He is also the author of I’m Not Saying, I’m Just Saying. The Hundred-Year Flood is his first full-length novel.
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Throughout the story, Tee reflects on fitting in, on belonging. He's one of the few Asians in Prague. Over the course of weeks, he grows closer to Katka. Eventually he learns the truth about his adoption and gains insight into the relationships between his parents, aunt, and uncle.
The prose is finely crafted, and contains many surprising, yet apt descriptions, such as "merciless appetites." One of my favorite passages is the explanation for why Tee chooses Prague:
"He chose Prague for its resistance. A city where, for thousands of years, private lives had withstood the oppression of empires."
The story is told with a disjointed timeline, starting with Tee in Massachusetts General Hospital having suffered a serious head wound. We gradually learn what happened to him and the events around the devastating flood that wiped out parts of Prague, but if you like your tales told in chronological order, this one may not be for you.
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I chose this book as part of the free Amazon book of the month. It's not a book I would've ever chosen on my own but I appreciate the opportunity to be exposed to new authors.
I went back and forth on enjoying the author’s sometimes prosaic style; sometimes I liked it and sometimes I didn’t. Salesses is good at creating an insight into a place I have never read about before. Through Tee’s eyes, Prague is beautiful, sensual, and vibrant. It’s a place of self-discovery and sadness, of life and darkness, and Salesses captured all of the nuances and vibrancy very well. Some of the writing is fuzzy and disjointed, but that is because Tee is fuzzy and disjointed.
All in all, I was able to read through the book without any issues as it wasn’t a very dense or difficult read. It was always easy for me to stop reading because nothing was able to keep me going through the night with interest, but it wasn’t so boring that I stopped reading and couldn’t find the energy to pick it back up.
The crux of the problem was that I just did not care for or about any of the characters. Even Tee was just the median, serving as the narrator of the story and nothing more. The storyline was also relatively predictable. I was able to come up with a lot of conclusions about the plot without any real deductions necessary.
That being sad, the book was well-written and had its points of intrigue. Since it was definitely on the slimmer side, I wouldn’t be opposed to picking it back up again someday and re-reading it.
That's because the identity issues aren't the usual MFA, "Who am I and Who is Other?" ke-rap but a real one for we adoptees; who are you? Who are you really? Yes, yes, adoptive families and organizations swear up and down that we are theirs and Part of the Family and yes, technically and morally, that's true. But we all know we are someone different, that we are, ultimately, frauds who do not belong anywhere. Save your assurances of the contrary because we've heard all those arguments and, regardless of their intellectual strength, it's not how we feel. And, yes, yes, feelings and a dollar gets you a cup of coffee, but when your basic sense of identity is of interloper, afterthought, lesser, then you tend to start off with a skewed viewpoint. It becomes even more skewed if you have the unfortunate privilege of discovering one's origin story which, 9 times out of 10, turns out rather sordid. That happens to the protagonist, Tee. It happened to me. I empathize.
This is not a difficult read. I found it straight forward, with less actual stream-of-consciousness than the real way people think and talk. You'll have no difficulties. Unless you're adopted. Then, you'll have a few.
My problem with the book is the early chapters. The writing felt dense and disjointed, and it was hard to follow the storyline. It improved, for me at least, once the characters sorted themselves out. The ending left me with a sense of hopelessness, not the way I like to leave a story.
For someone with more patience and a taste for interesting structure, it would be a wonderful read.