Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The Boat by Nam Le

A whole lot of praise has been heaped on this book. But perhaps that is why I was somewhat disappointed by it. My expectations were too high. But wait, wait, I'm not saying that I was disappointed by all the stories in The Boat. Nam Le had me at "That's all I've ever done, traffic in words" in his opening story, Love and Honor and Pity and Pride and Compassion and Sacrifice. It was beautifully written, it was sad and also terribly endearing. And then it ends, a little too soon for me, and we cut to a whole new world of a teenaged hitman in South America. That's the thing about short stories, while I enjoy reading them very much, it's like hopping on one of those extremely short flights, you take off, you're in the air for a little bit, they serve you a meal and hurridly clear it and before you know it, they're telling you to buckle you seatbelts and put your tray tables back because they're getting ready to land. And that's how I felt with this opening story. It was an amazing read and I wanted the story of Nam and his father to go on, but nope, that was the end of it, and Nam Le takes us into South America for a tale of a teenaged hitman.

The truth is, while there is an interesting diversity of characters and settings, and what seems to be plenty of research in the other stories, such as an American woman visiting Iran, a teenager's crush in Australia, Hiroshima orphans, I ended up liking the two about Vietnamese people (the first and the last stories) the most. I'm glad I read this book, as I can somewhat understand all the hype about it. Nam Le's writing is well, pretty awesome, even in the stories I was less enamoured with, his writing was what shone through.

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