Thank You, Mr. Nixon: Stories

Penguin Random House Audio. Feb. 2022. 8:42 hrs. ISBN 9780593551349. $20. F
In her first story collection since Who’s Irish?? in 1999, Jen offers a multifaceted exploration of the complex relationships between China, the United States, and the people who inhabit them. Via interconnected stories ranging from President Nixon’s historic 1972 visit all the way up to the COVID pandemic, Jen’s characters converge and disperse over the course of generations. Their outlooks and values are shaped by the circumstances under which they either flourish or wither. Four narrators—Justin Chien, Catherine Ho, Annie Q, and Eunice Wong—read several stories each. This creates both a sense of continuity, especially between related characters and successive generations, and variety, reinforcing the premise that each tale represents a moment in time or one aspect of a conflict. The narrators blend well together, each bringing their own style to the production while maintaining a cohesive whole. Though they all share Jen’s customary snappy dialogue and sharply observed character beats, some stories tend more toward the poignant and others are laugh-out-loud funny, so every narrator has the chance to shine.
VERDICT Recommended for listeners who enjoy Alice Munro’s finely tuned portraits of ordinary people.
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