Penguin Pr. Mar. 2022. 416p. ISBN 9780593298350. $28. F
DEBUT In her first work, Taiwanese American writer Chou follows the life of Ingrid Yang, who has spent the last eight years working on her dissertation on the late poet Xiao-Wen Chou (here called “the Chinese Robert Frost”), who had taught at her university. While researching in Chou’s archives, Ingrid uncovers a mystery surrounding the authenticity of his work and his true identity. With best friend Eunice Kim in tow, Ingrid undertakes a semi-comical adventure and learn that the venerated Chou was actually someone quite different. Addressing issues of racial identity, interracial relationships, the value of the arts in relation to the artist’s identity, and a host of other topics relevant to our times, Chou’s novel attempts to cover a lot of ground. The result reads like a TV script starring a predominantly Asian cast.
VERDICT Chou’s debut opens with promise and an intriguing premise, but as it moves along, multiple story lines are left open, and many characters (like Ingrid’s fiancé Stephen Greene and her academic nemesis Vivian Vo) are left underdeveloped. Nevertheless, readers who enjoyed Vanessa Hua’s River of Stars will appreciate this similarly humorous if sometimes unbelievable romp.
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