Library Journal Review Starred Review

Reba Leiding, Library Journal
August, 2012

W ith his first novel, Lam, winner of the Scotiabank Giller prize for his short story collection Bloodletting & Miraculous Cures, has created a tour de force that reaches from the Japanese occupation of Hong Kong to the American withdrawal from Vietnam in 1975. Lam's straightforward prose draws readers into wartime Saigon, where everyone is on the take and choosing the wrong allies can prove deadly. Percival Chen, a second-generation Chinese immigrant, is a womanizer, compulsive gambler, and pompous hypocrite with a hilariously mean ex-wife. Chen barely maintains a semblance of propriety for the sake of his highly regarded English-language school. Oblivious to the intrigue around him, he has a torrid affair with a Vietnamese metisse and becomes a pawn used by complex political forces. Chen raises money to ransom his son from torture, and risks everything in high-stakes mah-jong. But his cool head at the gambling tables serves him well. VERDICT: Readers who enjoyed Denis Johnson's The Tree of Smoke will appreciate this Vietnamese view of the conflict. - Reba Leiding, James Madison Univ. Lib., Harrisonburg, VA

© Library Journal 2012