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
"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
"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
"Readers of Philip Roth and Andre Brink, as well as those who enjoy complex and emotion-charged short fiction, will devour this book." Booklist
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.
A debut novel that is a brilliant exploration of a close, complicated family and the struggle between brotherhood and becoming an individual
An exquisite, blistering debut novel Three brothers tear their way through childhood— smashing tomatoes all over each other, building kites from trash, hiding out when their parents do battle, tiptoeing around the house as their mother sleeps off her graveyard shift. Paps and Ma are from Brooklyn—hes Puerto Rican, shes white—and their love is a serious, dangerous thing that makes and unmakes a family many times. Life in this family is fierce and absorbing, full of chaos and heartbreak and the euphoria of belonging completely to one another. From the intense familial unity felt by a child to the profound alienation he endures as he begins to see the world, this beautiful novel reinvents the coming-of-age story in a way that is sly and punch-in-the-stomach powerful. Written in magical language with unforgettable images, this is a stunning exploration of the viscerally charged landscape of growing up, how deeply we are formed by our earliest bonds, and how we are ultimately propelled at escape velocity toward our futures.
About the Author
JUSTIN TORRES is a graduate of the Iowa Writers Workshop and a recent Wallace Stegner Fellow at Stanford. He was the recipient of a Rolón Fellowship in Literature from United States Artists and the VCU Cabell First Novelist Award. His work has appeared in The New Yorker, Harper's, Granta, Tin House, and Glimmer Train. Among many other things, he has worked as a farmhand, a dog walker, a creative writing teacher, and a bookseller; he is now a fellow at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard.
Table of Contents
We Wanted More 1
Never-Never Time 4
The Lake 18
Us Proper 24
Other Locusts 33
Talk to Me 39
You Better Come 44
Night Watch 52
Big-Dick Truck 61
Trash Kites 82
Wasnt No One to Stop This 86
The Night I Am Made 103