When I’m Gone, Look for Me in the East

Pantheon. Feb. 2022. 320p. ISBN 9781524748111. $27. F
Acclaimed novelist/poet Barry follows up her latest work of fiction, We Ride Upon Sticks, by transporting readers to a lush and windswept Mongolia. The novel opens as Chuluun, a Mongolian monk, reunites with his identical twin brother Mun in the busy capital of Ulaanbaatar. Mun was once a monk known as the “Redeemer Who Sounds the Conch in the Darkness” but has since renounced his vows owing to a familiarity with women, as his brother explains. Tasked with finding the reincarnation of a revered spiritual leader, they set off on a two-week journey with two companions. The rich narrative looks at Chuluun’s life as a Mongolian monk while providing insights into the country’s various cultures. While the depth and breadth of some of these passages can get a bit unwieldy, what shines here is the distinctive and enduring bond between the two brothers despite the different directions their lives have taken.
VERDICT This probing personal portrait leads Barry to a larger story that will appeal especially to readers who appreciate being swept into richly realized landscapes and cultures.
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