Monday, March 22, 2021

MY YEAR ABROAD


 My Year Abroad, Chang-rae Lee, Riverhead Books, 2021, 498 pp

This is Chang-rae Lee's sixth novel. I have read every single previous one and loved each one in different ways.

I loved My Year Abroad for several things: the smart, sassy and delicious writing; the hero Tiller and his viewpoint as an Asian/American young man; the absolute richness that Chang-rae Lee brings to all his novels.

Let's go right to Tiller. In many ways he is a mess and yet he is wide open to experience. He has a secret sorrow and is so emotionally vulnerable I just wanted to give him hugs all the time. He is so game and willing when he follows the other main character, Pong the Chinese/American entrepreneur, into Asia. He just keeps trying to be whatever Pong seems to see in him. Many wild adventures ensue, seemingly millions of meals, predatory men and women of all levels of Asian society, and scenes that are barely believable. 

There is an alternating time line in the story concerning Tiller's life in New Jersey, both before and after his year abroad. This was somewhat annoying except by the end I realized the author did me a favor. No matter the horrors Tiller experienced in that year, you know he made it through and you are shown his inner strengths in the kindest way possible.

That last paragraph may sound like a spoiler but it is not because you know all along that he did survive. The wonder of the book is that you still worry he won't.

The smart and sassy aspect includes Lee's deftness with the way college age Americans speak and behave. Also the exact truths he writes about our modern times, stereotypes, global trade practices, the effects of capitalism as a global phenomenon, all done in emotional yet humorous ways.

In case you are thinking this is a lot to unpack, you are right. You will know quite soon in the book whether it is your kind of story or not. It certainly was mine.

27 comments:

  1. I can feel your passion for this one. I actually have the audio but it may be a while before I get to it as it's over 16 hours.

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    1. Glad I got that across. Yes, it is pretty long!

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  2. This sounds interesting. Since I've spent many years abroad, I always love to read about other people's experiences.

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    1. You could take a chance on it then.

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    2. Yup. It's on my list.

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  3. I think you got this book and what the writer was attempting in a way that I did not. You almost make me want to read it again. Almost but not quite.

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    1. Nah, life is too short. I actually enjoyed your review and your reaction to the book.

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  4. I'm always saying I'm not a Dutch Person but an Earth Person. I just love traveling and different cultures and countries. The fact that this book has a smart/sassy character in it is really something I usually enjoy as well. Definitely adding this to my never ending TBR! Thanks for bringing it to my attention.

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    1. I am now reading a book set in your country: The Twin by Gerbrand Bakker, translated to English. In Dutch it is called Boven is bet stil. Kind of a quiet story in the country.

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    2. So true, Esther. We are all Earth Persons.

      Judy, I have a Dutch book on my soon TBR list (for my Xanadu project). Unfortunately, despite him being a very famous Dutch author, the book has not been translated into English.

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    3. I have not heard about that book, Judy! But I will keep my eyes open for your review! I love books that take place in the country of the Netherlands, because that's my favorite part. I don't like the West of The Netherlands, with all the big cities.

      I went to Rotterdam Haven for the first time in my life last weekend and it was just so MASSIVE. Not really my thing.

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    4. I finished the book last night. I liked it a lot, it is pretty literary but in a rural farmland setting, with canals and such, maybe in the northwest. It mentions Lake IJessel. I don't know the geography of The Netherlands at all. I should have had a map handy while I read. What area do you live in?

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    5. That's so cool! I live in that area! The IJssel is a huge river and it runs near where I live. I grew up in Dronten, which is surrounded by farms and then moved to Kampen, it's a bit bigger but one of the oldest Netherlands Cities, and it was so important during the Medieval years because of it's location near the river :)

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    6. Makes sense that The IJssel is a river, from what I read in the story, that is. I could not exactly tell by the map I consulted. Wow, it is cool to know you live in that area. I will review the book soon and I think you would like it even more due to the setting.

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  5. Yeah his last novel On Such a Full Sea didn't do much for me, so I think I will pass. But I'm glad you got a lot more out of this one. His writing always gets the good hype.

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    1. I know some did not like that last one. I always like his writing and his ideas.

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  6. i admire your appreciation and acceptance of modern lit... not in the cards por moi, tho...

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    1. I admire your appreciation and acceptance of the older lit.

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  7. I have yet to read anything written by Chang-rae Lee, but maybe I should. My Year Abroad seems like the perfect book to read from the author.

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  8. I'm curious. I have never read anything by him. Do you think this is the one I should try?

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    1. Not necessarily for your first one by him. I would recommend Native Speaker. https://keepthewisdom.blogspot.com/2010/04/native-speaker.html

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  9. I love the sound of this!!! For sure adding to my TBR!

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    1. I think for you this will be crazy good!

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  10. This does sound like my kind of book!

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