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Sightseeing Paperback – December 12, 2005

4.4 out of 5 stars 47 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. The Thailand of Westerners' dreams shares space with a Thailand plagued by social and economic inequality in this auspicious debut collection of seven plaintive and luminous stories. In the title tale—an exquisite meditation on human dependency—a son and his ailing mother must accept the dismal reality of her encroaching blindness and what it means for his plans to attend college away from home. In "Don't Let Me Die in This Place," the most exuberant of the stories, an ornery and uproarious widowed grandfather, recently crippled by a stroke, moves from Maryland to Bangkok to live with his son, Thai daughter-in-law and their two "mongrel children." "Farangs" and "At the Café Lovely" convincingly examine adolescent friendship and love, as does "Priscilla the Cambodian"—though when a refugee camp is torched by native Thai xenophobes, it veers toward the politically dark and ominous. Politics and fear also play a role in "Draft Day," a painfully grim story about two young male friends, one of whom avoids military conscription because of his privileged background, and "Cockfighter," the final and longest of the pieces, in which a berserk local thug rules a town through violence and corruption. Young or old, male or female, all of Lapcharoensap's spirited narrators are engaging and credible. Anger, humor and longing are neatly balanced in these richly nuanced, sharply revelatory tales.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From School Library Journal

Adult/High School–Seven short stories set in Thailand explore the intricacies of modern-day relationships. The overriding themes are not specific to that country, though: each tale focuses on family dynamics and dysfunction. The protagonists in five of the selections are male teens living in or around Bangkok. "Draft Day" addresses the question of loyalty as the narrator allows his parents to bribe an official to keep him from being conscripted. "Sightseeing" tells of a son whose mother is going blind and the ambivalence he feels about living his own life versus caring for her. The last two stories are also first-person narrations, but the voices are different. In "Don't Let Me Die in This Place," an elderly American tries to come to terms–albeit none too gracefully–with his relocation to Thailand to live with his son and Thai daughter-in-law and their "mongrel" children, and "Cockfighting" is told from the perspective of a teen who watches her father become so obsessed with raising roosters that he is blinded to the disintegration of his marriage. In each of the stories, Lapcharoensap offers readers a glimpse of Thailand that they will not find in guidebooks–not only the beauty of this country but also the grit, the overcrowding, and the poverty. More than that, however, he shows with rare wit and insight that coming of age in the world today is a bittersweet and complicated experience regardless of nationality.–Kim Dare, Fairfax County Public Library, VA
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Grove Press; Reprint edition (December 12, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0802142346
  • ISBN-13: 978-0802142344
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 0.7 x 7.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.5 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (47 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #261,736 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Luan Gaines HALL OF FAMEVINE VOICE on January 7, 2006
Format: Paperback
Sightseeing is a remarkable collection by an author with a keen sense of irony and a talent for description, modern-day Thailand brought to chaotic life in a series of stories that are charming, insightful, touching and remarkably astute. The language is fierce: "The dilapidated playground. The pond with its perpetual scrim of scum. The mangy strays sleeping haphazardly in the streets. The porridge and plantain vendors." Most told in a personal narrative, the stories are varied scenes of love, betrayal and abandonment, always sympathetic and compassionate. Without losing the unique flavor of Thailand in the modern world, every aspect of the country is revealed, the poverty, the lush terrain, the greedy and careless farangs, the spirited Thai people, Cambodian immigrants, the streets teeming with faces, some curious, some defeated.

"Farangs" begins innocently enough, a young man regularly enamored of female tourists in their bikinis, especially Americans, destined to have his heart broken over and over, with only his pet pig, Clint Eastwood, for consolation. An eleven-year old boy admires his older brother in "At the Café Lovely", their adventures revealing the dangerous habits of huffers in back alleys, where igniting paint thinner can envelop an unwitting face in blue flames. Yet memory is strong, even years later, the street-tough, newly-orphaned brothers speeding through the night on a motorcycle. "Draft Day" portrays an ultimate betrayal by a lie of omission, years of friendship thrown away as two young men appear for the annual draft lottery. In "Sightseeing", the title story, a son and his mother take a last opportunity to share a short vacation, knowing that soon their lives will change irrevocably.
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Format: Hardcover
Sightseeing is a supremely mastered collection of six short stories and one novella set in modern Thailand. Mr. Lapcharoensap, who is known as "A", which is a contraction of "cha-ae" (the Thai equivalent of "peek-a-boo"), was born in Chicago, raised in Thailand and the U.S., and graduated from an American writing program. It is refreshing to read stories set in Thailand in which the Thais do not speak in pidgin English. The tales will resonate with you and afterwards you will ponder them and perhaps reread them to look for how his finely crafted sentence structures, alliterations, and pacing made the story move along so well.

Each story in sightseeing is led by a different guide, and they allow the reader to observe different aspects of this "Land of Smiles" that are rarely seen by non-Thais. In "Farang," we meet a young man living in the lush beach districts of the South, where tourists and natives show their uglier sides and prejudice amidst the beautiful landscapes. In "Draft Day," economic privileges and class contexts intrude on friendships; and in "At The Café Lovely" a brother recalls a bonding experience and loss of innocence in a cafe that is not so lovely and fingers smell of heaven and glue. Hate and prejudice; bumper cars, abuse and love; depression, disgrace and decay, and the nasty, nefarious habits of prostitution, sniffing paint thinner, and goons with methamphetamine intrude on the succulent landscapes. In "Sightseeing," a son and mother make a trip to the beautiful coast before he starts college, gains some senses, and she loses one of hers.
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Format: Hardcover
I am half Thai. Born outside of an airforce base in Thailand during the Vietnam war. A product of the war you could say. However, I grew up in the U.S. along with my 4 siblings and my parents. I never really had an understanding of what life is like in Thailand. Even during visits over there, being half American makes me an somewhat of an outsider.

This book was enchanting to me. It helped me relate. I read a lot of fiction, and I'm always on the lookout for good writing. This author's writing style is so fluid. The images he evokes so clear, the characters painfully real. A good pain.

I've been waiting a long time for someone to write about Thailand and Thai people in this manner. I only hope that Mr. Lapcharonesap continues to provide this captive audience with more. This book is highly recommended.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Having visited Thailand a few times now, I was eager to find a work of modern fiction that captures the Thai experience. This book is exactly what I was looking for. Having ties to both Thailand and the US, Lapcharoensap moves effortlessly between the two cultures and is strongest in stories where cultures intersect and often clash.

All stories are presented in the first person, but the narrator varies considerably from story to story: men, women, young, old, Thai, American, interracial. All characters are portrayed convincingly and sympathetically with the author’s great skill.

To summarize each story…

In Farangs, a teen-aged boy with a Thai mother, who caters to tourists, and an American absentee father searches for love among the tourists, despite his mother’s stern warnings.

In At The Cafe Lovely, a young boy learns important life lessons about class warfare in the new Thailand by shadowing his older brother.

In Draft Day, the friendship of two teen-aged boys is tested when a corrupt system allows one boy’s family to exploit the benefits of wealth while the other is not so lucky.

In Sightseeing, a mother’s developing blindness creates a rift between her and her teen-aged son.

In Priscilla The Cambodian, two young boys learn hard lessons about poverty and xenophobia and the unexpected kindness of strangers.

In Don’t Let Me Die In This Place, an elderly man moves from the US to Bangkok to be with his son’s family and has a hard time adjusting.

In Cockfighter, the longest and most intense story in the collection, a Thai girl comes of age in a corrupt and brutal village and learns that she’s not the only one in the village who is in pain.
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