I usually savor books of short stories, allowing each one to unfold on different days or similar to the treat of “second dessert” before I go to bed at night. WHAT THE ZHANG BOYS KNOW, is a Novel in Stories and was a devouring experience. I read cover-to-cover all in one day as I got hooked into each selection and could not wait to see what the Zhang Boys knew.
Clifford Garstang’s writing has a precision that leaves no detail unfurnished and yet is sparse, it is formal and yet concise; the writing is Danish modern design next to French tassels. The book is a Global experience though it is all about the residents of a renovated building, transformed into condos at the edge of China town in Washington DC. 12 stories of loss and change are unfolded as separate lives weave into a whole theme. One story is very painful and forces the other residents’ parallel problems to be seen as more the normal pitfalls of human travel and travail.
I enjoyed how dualism was explored in this book from male and female, ethnic backgrounds and cultural training, to the blond curly and black straight hair – oh and that could be reversed with ease!
One character says,” It occurred to me then, and I only become more firmly convinced as the years go by, that in some ways the world is united by being witness to unspeakable evil. We seem to be powerless to prevent it from arising, and we do not succeed in stopping it (when we recognize it at all) even by flinging ourselves under its wheels.” “But what we can do, and have done unfailingly through millennia of malevolencies is give voice to the victims.”
In this read, there is a marvelous quirkiness to each of the characters that just wants your attention. The building is full of artists and eccentrics and just the plain old, plain old good people exploring their journey and moving forward. Whereas the back alley is abandoned to the detritus of those stuck and honing into a masking of their acute loss of hope and love. The deserted factory will probably never become a city park.
I liked how the Chinese history and characters interacted with the present reality.
The author has plenty of experience with writing and has all the right degrees to tout his skills; he is also a student of law and foreign affairs and has travelled a great deal. He knows a great deal about historic loss and political maneuverings which radically change the path of a human life and about how these events can bring a new mix to the pursuit of self and belonging.
As the season of gift giving is approaching in my culture and tradition, I have put this marvelous read on my list for 2 special 20 somethings and 2 friends who love history, politics in hindsight, and human journeys as much as I do. What the Zhang Boys Know is art itself.
Is there something you know in your life that would make a wonderful short story?
I did receive a copy of this book from Press 53 and TLC online book tours and I thank them very much for this opportunity of enjoyment.
One lucky commenter will receive a copy of this book from the Publisher – We will do a random drawing in the middle of the TLC book tour.
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