If I Were the Ocean, I’d Carry You Home

Red Hen. Oct. 2022. 192p. ISBN 9781636280530. pap. $15.95. F
In Hsu’s (There Is a Man) sparsely written collection, children from the Asian American diaspora attentively observe life, but that’s not the case for them as adults. Separate stories feature Paul, Penny, and Reggie as children. Paul runs around a track with his father while explaining a school project; Penny’s former stepfather teaches her how to shoot in the woods; and Reggie attends a birthday party with his grandfather and younger brother. They reappear as desperate or exasperated adults with lives involving misfortune and missed chances. Reggie’s life is depicted in a few more stories. Standalone narratives with another child and other adults as main characters round out the collection. All 12 short stories might remind readers of excerpts from middle school English class, read to determine their theme and meaning. Most of the stories have ambiguous endings that leave characters either in the middle of a thought or a predicament. Other than Reggie, the other characters remain in a state of limbo.
VERDICT There are a couple of standouts, including the eponymous story about Paul’s attempts to tell his stepdaughter that her father is not returning. Give to those who enjoy quick reads that require deep thought.
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