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The Boatby Nam Le
Synopses & Reviews
A stunningly inventive, deeply moving fiction debut: stories that take us from the slums of Colombia to the streets of Tehran; from New York City to Iowa City; from a tiny fishing village in Australia to a foundering vessel in the South China Sea, in a masterly display of literary virtuosity and feeling.
In the magnificent opening story, "Love and Honor and Pity and Pride and Compassion and Sacrifice," a young writer is urged by his friends to mine his father's experiences in Vietnam — and what seems at first a satire of turning one's life into literary commerce becomes a transcendent exploration of homeland, and the ties between father and son. "Cartagena" provides a visceral glimpse of life in Colombia as it enters the mind of a fourteen-year-old hit man facing the ultimate test. In "Meeting Elise," an aging New York painter mourns his body's decline as he prepares to meet his daughter on the eve of her Carnegie Hall debut. And with graceful symmetry, the final, title story returns to Vietnam, to a fishing trawler crowded with refugees, where a young woman's bond with a mother and her small son forces both women to a shattering decision.
Brilliant, daring, and demonstrating a jaw-dropping versatility of voice and point of view, The Boat is an extraordinary work of fiction that takes us to the heart of what it means to be human, and announces a writer of astonishing gifts.
"From a Colombian slum to the streets of Tehran, seven characters in seven stories struggle with very particular Swords of Damocles in Pushcart Prize winner Le's accomplished debut. In 'Halflead Bay,' an Australian mother begins an inevitable submission to multiple sclerosis as her teenage son prepares for the biggest soccer game of his life. The narrator of 'Meeting Elise,' a successful but ailing artist in Manhattan, mourns his dead lover as he anticipates meeting his daughter for the first time since she was an infant. The opening 'Love and Honor and Pity and Pride and Compassion and Sacrifice' features a Vietnamese character named Nam who is struggling to complete his Iowa Writer's Workshop master's as his father comes for a tense visit, the first since an earlier estrangement shattered the family. The story's ironies — 'You could totally exploit the Vietnamese thing,' says a fellow student to Nam — are masterfully controlled by Le, and reverberate through the rest of this peripatetic collection. Taken together, the stories cover a vast geographic territory (Le was born in Vietnam and immigrated to Australia) and are filled with exquisitely painful and raw moments of revelation, captured in an economical style as deft as it is sure." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"[R]emarkable....[Le's] sympathy for his characters and his ability to write with both lyricism and emotional urgency lend his portraits enormous visceral power." Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times
"A polished and intense debut story collection of astonishing range....Consummately self-assured." Kirkus Reviews
"Readers of Philip Roth and Andre Brink, as well as those who enjoy complex and emotion-charged short fiction, will devour this book." Booklist
"You may never have heard of Nam Le, but with the publication of his first collection of short stories...you can expect to hear much more about him in the future....Not yet 30, he is already an extraordinarily accomplished and sophisticated writer." San Francisco Chronicle
"I've been telling friends about The Boat for weeks now, saying 'This guy's got it.' Now I'm telling you. Pass it on." Cleveland Plain Dealer
"Le writes rawly rigorous stories that capture entire worlds; each character is distinctive and fully fleshed out, each plot eventful as a full-length novel but artfully compressed. Highly recommended." Library Journal
In this stunningly inventive fiction debut, stories transport readers from the slums of Colombia to the streets of Tehran, from a fishing village in Australia to the South China Sea.
The seven stories in Nam Le's masterful collection The Boat take us across the globe, from the slums of Colombia to Iowa City; from the streets of Tehran to a foundering vessel in the South China Sea. They guide us to the heart of what it means to be human — and herald the arrival of a remarkable new writer.
About the Author
Nam Le was born in Vietnam, and raised in Australia. His work has appeared in Zoetrope, A Public Space, One Story, Conjunctions, and the Pushcart Prize and Best American Nonrequired Reading anthologies. Currently the fiction editor of the Harvard Review, he divides his time between Australia and the United States.
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