Thursday, December 20, 2018

Li, Lillian (Number One Chinese Restaurant)

Quite simply, this is not the kind of writing I can appreciate. I wasn't ever able to understand the shape of a relationship or conversation or event because the protagonists seemed to change their mind or mode of interaction at the drop of a hat (or the next sentence Li wrote).

That's not to say that Li didn't create a story with a beginning, middle bits that describe the difficulties faced by each main character, and an ending that does, in fact, wrap things up for the reader. She did that! But along the way I couldn't pinpoint the important elements of each character. Case in point: Nan's boy, Pat, is alternately a typical teenager and then not at all a typical teenager. When he's not, it doesn't fit his profile whatsoever. Another case in point: Nan and Jack's platonic relationship makes oodles of sense, but their foray into something other than that is befuddling because of how Jack has been described throughout the book. At heart, I think the problem is that I couldn't match physical descriptions - of the people and the places - with actions and events. And that left me utterly confused.

I also deeply wished that the description of the Chinese restaurants had been more evocative. You get some flavor of what it feels like to work in a Chinese restaurant, but it's veneer. Nothing is actually illustrative, at least from an outsider's perspective.

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