Sunday, April 26, 2009

The Foreigner - Francie Lin

Colleen lent me this novel, set partially in the Bay Area and mostly in Taipei. She thought I would like it as it deals with identity issues, but I am also a sucker for the Asian authors, and beautiful cover art. This is the story about 40-year old Emerson, still a virgin and having weekly Friday night dinners with his overbearing mother. As he fulfills his familial obligations, Emerson recounts his childhood, including losing his father at age 11, and his relationship with his mother laden with awkward sexual undertones. Emerson's younger brother, Little P, fled back to Taipain 10 years earlier with little to no contact since. Emerson decides to return to his homeland to find his brother and potentially reconnect with the brother he was once so close to. When we're first introduced to Little P, he is described as "wolfish." His behavior suggests that of a drug addict, and it is clear from everyone's statements about him that he is involved in unsavory activity (clear to everyone except Emerson, of course). He hints at a "secret" and makes underhandeded comments about his mother and Emerson's relationship with her. I started reading this book on the bus on my way in to work, and found myself wishing I could take the rest of the day off to finish it. But, as Emerson delved deeper into Taiwain's seedy-underbelly, it took a turn that I could not quite relate to - but, I did appreciate the juxtaposition of the two brothers who come from the same home, but end up in two vastly different life situations - one so paralyzed by his obligations that he is unable to develop personal relationships of his own, and the other driven so far from acceptable society that he becomes a shadow in the city sewers. Parts of this book felt a bit too sensationalized or written for the screen, but ultimately, it was an engaging read about finding yourself in a world where you are constantly defined by others.

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