The Lums are cursed. Ever since Grandpa Melvin was inspired to join the U.S. army after watching a Popeye movie and, as family lore has it, unleashed a "relentless rain of steel death" upon the Nazis, Lum after Lum has been doomed to an untimely demise, be it by tainted cheeseburger or speeding ice-cream truck. The most recent victim is Louis Lum's mother, struck down by a medical student asleep at the wheel. Now Louis, a 20-something fact checker at a hot-rod magazine, must move back home with his gangsta rap-obsessed father, Sonny, to prevent him from enacting the revenge he promises.
But soon Louis finds himself more concerned with another wayward family member, his uncle Bo Lum, who has disappeared in Hong Kong after many years of self-imposed exile. After the annual family meeting at Grandma Esther's house, Louis decides to leave his father to go to Hong Kong and find Bo, his grandmother's favorite son. As Louis's search progresses, the tragicomic story of three generations of Lums in America is revealed through the eyes of Louis, Sonny, and Grandma Esther.
A novel about the unexpected ways love and myth work to both sustain and threaten family ties, A Long Stay in a Distant Land introduces a wry and original new voice in American fiction.
©2005 Chieh Chieng; (P)2005 Blackstone Audiobooks
"Charmingly eccentric and refreshingly unstereotypical." (Publishers Weekly)
"This is a dazzling debut: poignant, prickly, and deliciously absurd." (Booklist)
This is no doubt a much different story when read than listened to. For one, without a family tree chart or chapter headings to glance up at there was some trouble figuring out who was who and when was when, as the story jumped back and forth in time and across generations and from relative to relative. Confusing.
The narrator was not altogether unpleasant, although his elderly voices, either male OR female, did tend to sound similar, almost sterotypical.
My reviews are usually based on time and dollar value. This was a book worth listening to but I hope it might have been better. I was glad it was a short listen, which is to say, right after listening to it I felt it was barely worth the one book credit it cost me. It didn't grab me in a way that I couldn't wait to get some quiet iPOD time so I could get to listening to it again. But I'm glad I waited a month or so to put down this review. My memories of it are good. The story was interesting, even poignant at times. I do remember having a problem trying to remember (figure out) which character was who and when, but now that time has evened out those puzzlements, I can say that the general mood the book left me with was a wholehearted one. The central "characters" all worked through what they needed to work through. They felt their life's resolutions were workable. Less angst and more understanding. Something we need more of in late 20th early 21st century fiction.
You may wish to try it. But give it a good, solid 10 minute sample reading first.
Only got about half way through this audiobook. The characters are unappealing. I couldn't stand Sonny and his love for cockroach-infested apartments. His wife was a wuss who allowed him to trample on her. His mother was stereotyped.
The plot (if there is one) is disjointed in addition to being convoluted. It's hard to keep track of the characters and what they're doing, and why.
After about 3.5 hours, I gave it up. I don't like to leave a book unfinished and don't often do so, so I may go back to this one day. In the meantime, I removed it from my iPod, it's not worthy of the space.
It is probably one of the books that should be for reading, not listening. The reader is totally boring. I find the story 'too cute' as the author contrives to deliver the plot.
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