Jerjonji's Reviews > A Long Stay in a Distant Land: A Novel

A Long Stay in a Distant Land by Chieh Chieng
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Jun 19, 08

bookshelves: asian-studies
Read in January, 2008

The New York Times views this story as a "coming-of-age" story, but for me, the novel was more about discovering who the other people in your family really are instead of discovering who you are.

Lewis Lum is convinced that the Lum family is cursed and that Death is collecting the remaining members one by one as revenge for his grandfather cheating it. If you think that Death is chasing you, it affects some of the decisions you make- like you never eat hamburger at fast food restaurants, you always look both ways two or three times before crossing the street, and you invite Jesus into your heart three hundred and fifty times... but that's just the beginning. A quirky family tale that made me laugh and giggle, Chieng does a great job of making a different culture accessible and comprehensible to the non-Chinese reader while at the same time portraying a loving, but somewhat manipulative family.

One of my favorite passages is when Lewis is eating out in Hong Kong and orders turnip cakes. When the golden cakes arrive at the table, he smells them carefully, examining every inch before tasting them. His grandmother had made the terrible tasting things from an old family recipe for every family gathering (which is mostly premature funerals from bizarre events) and nobody likes them. For the first time in his life, Lewis is about to discover what they are really supose to taste like. It's an awesome scene and one I wish I'd written. The characters seem real and they each have their own story which is slowly revealed. With such a distinctive voice, I don't have to worry about losing my own, and since it's not a complicated read, it helped with the sense of brain boredom. I found this book when I was chasing down another book that hasn't arrived yet! (I'll tell you about it when it's here and read!). I wish Chieng had more books written for me to read- that's the worst part about reading 1st books!
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