Daily Archives: December 10, 2010

** World and Town by Gish Jen

In World and Town, a refugee Cambodian family arrives in a small town in Vermont and becomes enmeshed with a helpful neighbor (who, at the same time, may well fall in love again with an old love) and assorted helpful souls, including a vigorously proselytizing Evangelical.

The story alternates between the helpful neighbor and the teenage Cambodian girl, the former with a strong voice and deliciously details of her former life, the latter, alas, with a seemingly forced Valley Girl manner that never settles towards being believable. So theĀ  story moves along, from the normal (gardening in cold Vermont, the marvel of a baby boy) towards the increasingly unbelievable (a bloodbath that somehow does not kill or maim, a convenient death by smokeĀ  inhalation) without quite coming together. Too bad. The reminiscence of the neighbor’s long and storied life and the long struggle of the Cambodian family could have made a great story.

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