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Publisher's Summary

Instant National Best Seller

A New York Times Notable Book * Named a Best Book of the Year by Vogue, TIME, and Marie Claire

“A manifesto to happiness - the one found when you stop running from who you are.” (New York Times Book Review)

“An extraordinary book, acrobatic on the level of the sentence, symphonic across its many movements - and this is a book that moves…My Year Abroad is a wild ride - a caper, a romance, a bildungsroman, and something of a satire of how to get filthy rich in rising Asia.” (Vogue)

From the award-winning author of Native Speaker and On Such a Full Sea, an exuberant, provocative story about a young American life transformed by an unusual Asian adventure - and about the human capacities for pleasure, pain, and connection. 

Tiller is an average American college student with a good heart but minimal aspirations. Pong Lou is a larger-than-life, wildly creative Chinese American entrepreneur who sees something intriguing in Tiller beyond his bored exterior and takes him under his wing. When Pong brings him along on a boisterous trip across Asia, Tiller is catapulted from ordinary young man to talented protégé, and pulled into a series of ever more extreme and eye-opening experiences that transform his view of the world, of Pong, and of himself. 

In the breathtaking, “precise, elliptical prose” that Chang-rae Lee is known for (The New York Times), the narrative alternates between Tiller’s outlandish, mind-boggling year with Pong and the strange, riveting, emotionally complex domestic life that follows it, as Tiller processes what happened to him abroad and what it means for his future. Rich with commentary on Western attitudes, Eastern stereotypes, capitalism, global trade, mental health, parenthood, mentorship, and more, My Year Abroad is also an exploration of the surprising effects of cultural immersion - on a young American in Asia, on a Chinese man in America, and on an unlikely couple hiding out in the suburbs. Tinged at once with humor and darkness, electric with its accumulating surprises and suspense, My Year Abroad is a novel that only Chang-rae Lee could have written, and one that will be read and discussed for years to come.

©2020 Chang-rae Lee (P)2020 Penguin Audio

Critic Reviews

“A wild tale that moves coolly between satire and thriller.... Lee tells a story of what it means to be plucked from darkness into the light of recognition, and in doing so, explores the fundamental human desires to be seen and to love.” (The Washington Post)
 

 “A wild-ride picaresque, wisecracking, funny, ambitious, full of sex and danger.” (The New York Times Book Review

“Exuberant.... Lee's writing style, as usual, is alive with wit and satiric social commentary…boisterous and fun.” (NPR, Fresh Air)

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What listeners say about My Year Abroad

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    4 out of 5 stars

Worst narration ever

Returning after 20 minutes. Horrendous, grating narration. No cadence, mispronunciations galore and not stopping for commas. Yikes. Will look for the printed version.

11 people found this helpful

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Sooooo many words

I set my sleep timer for 50 minutes. I drifted off to sleep with the protagonists talking about a watermelon. I woke up this morning and pressed play, and he was STILL talking about the watermelon. I like descriptive writing, but the author goes off on so many tangents that it will literally bore you to sleep. But don’t worry it can run for an hour after you fall asleep and you won’t miss anything.

6 people found this helpful

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Exceeds the hype!

Extraordinary novel and worth the hype. Equal part a fluky novel of ideas, grand guignol and a bildungsroman in the context of globalization. Narration is pitch perfect.

3 people found this helpful

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I did not want it to end!

I walked and walked miles just to keep listening to this book. Not only is the story an ingenious braiding of historical and cultural details, but the writing is absolutely sumptuous. Lee is an artist with words, his writing is masculine and his food descriptions dazzling. The reader too was exceptional!

2 people found this helpful

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Ugh

What can I even say…
The narration was good. But the story was painstaking. I have no idea why I listened to this all the way through. I wanted to stop early on, but I can’t help but to see books through once I’ve started them. I always ride on the hope that I will be pleasantly surprised. That was not the case with this title. I’m so glad it’s over so I can finally move on to my next (hopefully enjoyable) book.

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Clever but nauseating

I had high expectations, but I gave up half way. Too much excessive eating and drinking as some kind of male bravado. Too much actual vomiting! Clever language. Most of the characters are too shallowly drawn for me to care enough about them to keep reading. I could not relate to the main character's passive nature. I did enjoy the complexity of the character Pong, and the narrator's voice for him.

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DISAPPOINTING FICTION

As a first exposure to Chang-Rae Lee, “My Year Abroad” is disappointing. Lee is an accomplished novelist with many awards, but this latest book is long, and in many places, ponderous. In some sense “My Year Abroad” is a stereotypical story of an Asian immigrant capturing the American dream by working hard. It outlines the life of a person who is industrious and intelligent who works in a restaurant while earning a college degree in chemistry. What keeps one interested in Lee’s story is Tiller, a young boy who gets caught up in a fraud created by this industrious and intelligent immigrant.

Tiller enters the story by helping a mother and her son in a chance meeting at the airport. The mother has been put in a witness protection program. She testifies to the illegal activity of her husband who is pursued by the American government. This introduces the threat of discovery by her husband’s associates who might kill her.

Many of the things that happen to Tiller fail to suspend disbelief. This is a long story without the qualities of good fiction. One comes away from the story in disappointment with an author who is obviously gifted.

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Disappointed

Maybe not one of Lee’s best

I hope his earlier work is better (I am assuming it is).
The story line could have been so much better with some tweaking. The main character drove me crazy as an undergrad underachiever who somehow had the vocabulary of, well, an Ivy League composition professor. His misplaced unwavering faith in Pong also grated on me.
One reviewer kind of dissed the book for being too much about food. That was one of my favorite parts!!

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Amazing book and narration!

This was an incredible book - I was totally entranced. Lawrence Kao’s narration was brilliant and made all the characters come alive.

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Excellent storytelling

The details in the writing made me feel I was there with the characters. Must read (listen to) more from this young and very talented writer. The narrator also brought the varied dialects alive.