Connect with us

Entertainment

Books: A great love story

Legacy Phuket Gazette

Published

 on 

PHUKET: Plot, characterization, dialogue, descriptive style – many elements combine to make a good novel, but the most mysterious is empathy, that magic emotional connection that makes a reader care passionately about fictional characters. In this, first-time novelist Atticus Lish succeeds magnificently.

His Preparation for the Next Life (Tyrant Books, New York, 2015, 417pp) opens with this
sentence:

“She came by way of Archer, Bridgeport, Nanuet, worked off 95 in jeans and a denim jacket, carrying a plastic bag and shower shoes, a phone number, waiting beneath an underpass, the potato chips long gone, light-headed.”

This is Zou Lei, an illegal immigrant, daughter of a Uighur mother from the Siberian steppes and a soldier of the People’s Liberation Army in the heroic Maoist mold. She has come to the United States via Mexico and is plugged into a network of cheap Chinese restaurant jobs at below minimum wage. She is thrown in jail during an immigration sweep on Long Island. When she emerges three months later, she heads for the anonymity of northern Queens – Flushing and Elmhurst – now New York’s largest Chinatown, leavened with Koreans, Indians, Filipinos, Thais and South Americans. Looking for a job, she arrives at a warren of food stalls called Flushing Mall.

“It was mobbed with kids, fifteen-year-old girls shouting, marching with their arms straight, screaming, telling off boys. They sat at the tables, texting, wearing Eskimo boots, their jeans riding low. Adult men lifted their heads like horses, their long, hollow-cheeked skulls, staring. Putting their faces back in bowls, eyes over the rim. Plastic bags, black hair, and sneakers, eating with their long, sharp fingers…You could see the wooden faces of the women in aprons standing, waiting, waiting to serve somebody and, behind them, the kitchens steaming like public showers.”

Here she meets another newcomer to the city, Brad Skinner, native of Pittsburg, recently released from the army after three tours in Iraq, badly wounded in both body and soul, strung out on pills and booze, subject to nightmares and post traumatic stress disorder. He arrives in Queens, humping a duffle bag, an assault pack on his back, weighed down by a 9mm pistol. Meeting Zou Lei seems miraculous to him.

“In his mind, he knew that she was special…She was what he ached for when he had been over there. When he believed he was going to die, the idea of never having a woman to love him had summed up all his pain.”

But his bursts of rage lead to ferocious fights. “When they made up, she experienced powerful well-being. Immortality flowed back into her life like the juice in a plant stem. She immediately began to taste her life again and the two of them would plan for the future.”

Skinner is devoted to lifting weights, Zou Lei to running enormous distances. Both learn from each other. Their love affair holds the reader in its grip, anxious, hopeful, afraid for both as they wander the dangerous streets. She is vulnerable to predators, he to benders and blackouts in strange bars.

The original inhabitants of this section of Queens were the Irish. There are still Irish bars and drunks standing on corners. Skinner rents a basement apartment in a row house owned by an Irish family. The son is in prison and is introduced at the start of the novel’s Part II:

“The white looked like a long-legged biker, as if, instead of being inside these razor-wire-topped walls, he should be leaning back on a chopper going down the highway, with his long legs extended and his boots on the chrome footrests…His mustache made him resemble a wolf. He was pale and large and when he walked, he rose up on his feet like the piston in a motor – up and down – chin always up, an eighth Cherokee, last name Turner.”

A soldier in the Aryan Nation, Turner is released from prison after ten years to find a damaged vet and a Chinese girl living in the family basement. The trajectory of violent conflict is inevitable. And heartbreaking, because the reader has come to care so much about the two lovers.

— James Eckardt

 

Get more from The Thaiger

📱 Download our app on Android or iOS
👋 Have your say on our Thailand forum
🔔 Subscribe to our daily newsletter
📺 Subscribe / Join for daily shows
👍 Like/Follow us on Facebook
🐦 FOLLOW us on Twitter
📷 FOLLOW us on Instagram

image

Join the conversation and have your say on Thailand news published on The Thaiger.

Thaiger Talk is our new Thaiger Community where you can join the discussion on everything happening in Thailand right now.

Please note that articles are not posted to the forum instantly and can take up to 20 min before being visible. Click for more information and the Thaiger Talk Guidelines.

Click to comment

You must be logged in to post a comment Login

Leave a Reply

Archiving articles from the Phuket Gazette circa 1998 - 2017. View the Phuket Gazette online archive and Digital Gazette PDF Prints.

Follow Thaiger by email:

Thailand News Today1 hour ago

Thailand News Today | Thailand says no to Sinovac, anutin stands by booster vax, Burmese junta takes a u-turn | Oct. 19

Coronavirus (Covid-19)3 hours ago

Covid-19 Tuesday: 9,122 new cases, 71 deaths, port of entry data

Thailand4 hours ago

Thai culture, tourism, Thailand pass, chit chat | Thaiger Bites | Ep. 41

Sponsored1 day ago

SO Sofitel Hua Hin opens its doors to welcome all visitors!

Welcome back to Thailand!

Thaiger is getting behind local businesses for the restart of tourism in Thailand - up to 50% discounts across all advertising packages!

Crime5 hours ago

Arrest made for the 14 year old murder of pregnant girl

Crime6 hours ago

Cyber fraud case renews talks over the safety of online banking

Crime7 hours ago

Myanmar’s junta government releases prisoners, cancels arrest warrants

image
Join the conversation on the Thaiger Talk forums today!
Politics7 hours ago

North Korea continues testing ballistic missiles

Thailand7 hours ago

No more Sinovac, Thailand pass details, BKK airport expansion | Good Morning Thailand | Ep. 112

Media8 hours ago

Virtual influencers a rising force in Thailand

Thailand8 hours ago

Thailand Top Stories | Police investigate online bank fraud, BKK airport expansion | October 19

Politics8 hours ago

MP queries appointment of army general to oversee Covid-19 in southern Thailand

Politics8 hours ago

Former U.S. president Trump sues House committee over records request

Coronavirus Vaccines9 hours ago

Anutin rejects suggestion booster doses should stop until everyone gets first dose

Coronavirus (Covid-19)9 hours ago

Covid-19 pill treatment highly effective at preventing hospitalisation, death

Coronavirus Vaccines10 hours ago

Thailand to stop using Sinovac vaccine once current supply runs out

Thailand1 month ago

Morning Top Stories Thailand | Police to end protests, Human Trafficking | September 14

Thailand8 months ago

Thailand News Today | Thai Airways in rehab, All go for Songkran | March 4

Tourism8 months ago

Phuket’s nightlife. Yes, bars and clubs are still open | VIDEO

Phuket8 months ago

Thailand News Today | Covid passport talks, Thai Airways heads to court | March 2

Tourism8 months ago

Phuket Thai food treats you need to try | VIDEO

Thailand8 months ago

Thailand News Today | Bars, pubs and restaurants ‘sort of’ back to normal | Feb 23

Tourism8 months ago

In search of Cat & Dog Cafés in Phuket Town | VIDEO

Thailand9 months ago

Thailand News Today | Gambling crackdown, Seafood market to reopen, Vlogger challenge | Jan 21

Thailand9 months ago

Thailand News Today | Covid testing for visas, Business impact, Vaccine approval | January 19

Thailand9 months ago

Thailand News Today | Weekend Bangkok bombs, Thailand fires, Covid update | January 18

Thailand9 months ago

Thailand News Today | Stray car on runway, Indonesian quake, 300 baht tourist fee | January 15

Thailand9 months ago

Thailand News Today | Governor off respirator, sex-trafficking arrest, condo prices falling | January 14

Thailand9 months ago

Thailand News Today | Chinese vaccine, Thailand ‘drug hub’, Covid update | January 13

Thailand9 months ago

Thailand News Today | Bangkok may ease restrictions, Phuket bar curfew, Vaccine roll out | January 12

Thailand9 months ago

Thailand News Today | Covid latest, Cockfights closed down, Bryde’s Whale beached | January 11

Trending