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Nam Le - The Boat, Reviews

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U.S. reviews
Canadian reviews
Australian reviews
UK reviews


The New York Times review, Michiko Kakutani

International Herald Tribune review, Michiko Kakutani

San Jose Mercury News review, Michiko Kakutani


Michiko Kakutani, 13 May 2008:

"Mr. Le not only writes with an authority and poise rare even among longtime authors, but he also demonstrates an intuitive, gut-level ability to convey the psychological conflicts people experience when they find their own hopes and ambitions slamming up against familial expectations or the brute facts of history. ... The opening story [is a] singular masterpiece. ... [Le's] sympathy for his characters and his ability to write with both lyricism and emotional urgency lend his portraits enormous visceral power.

He conveys what it might be like to be a young American woman visiting Tehran and comparing her own life of romantic disappointments and career satisfactions to that of an Iranian friend, who has chosen to commit herself to a life of politics and dissent (“Tehran Calling”). He conveys what it might be like to be an Australian teenager, preparing to face off against a thuggish rival’s claims to a girl, even as he tries to cope with his ailing mother’s impending death (“Halflead Bay”). And in the two stories that bookend this collection, he conveys what it might be like to have the Vietnam War as an inescapable fact of daily life, infecting every relationship and warping the trajectory of one’s life. In “The Boat” he does so directly with devastating results; in “Love and Honor” he does so elliptically, creating a haunting marvel of a story that says as much about familial dreams and burdens as it does about the wages of history."

(Click logo on left for full review, or here for full New York Times profile of Nam Le.)



The New York Times, Inside The Times, 14 May 2008



Inside The Times, 14 May 2008:

"It's a precept all writers have heard: write what you know. Nam Le, a Vietnam-born corporate attorney raised in Australia, did just the opposite, doing copious research and penning fictional stories about adolescents in Colombia or another tale set in the days before an atomic bomb is dropped on Hiroshima. The result is a collection called The Boat, which is garnering the kind of praise usually reserved for established literary heavyweights."

(Click logo on left for full profile.)


San Francisco Chronicle review, Michael McGaha



Michael McGaha, 15 May 2008:

"You may never have heard of Nam Le, but with the publication of his first collection of short stories, The Boat, you can expect to hear much more about him in the future. ... Not yet 30, he is already an extraordinarily accomplished and sophisticated writer.

In his book's opening story, he plays with the elusive boundaries between truth and fiction by identifying the narrator as 'Nam,' a student at the Iowa Writers' Workshop who seems identical to the author, as far as we can tell. The story's title is "Love and Honor and Pity and Pride and Compassion and Sacrifice." As a fellow student reminds Nam, those are the 'old verities' that Faulkner famously advised young writers to focus on. This friend admires Nam for doing that rather than exploiting 'the Vietnamese thing' in his fiction. The narrator then proceeds to write an 'ETHNIC STORY,' attempting to recount his father's unspeakably horrific experience as a survivor of the My Lai massacre. Both that story, and the frame story containing it — as well as the six other stories in this book — offer strong evidence that the most effective way to convey the universal human qualities Faulkner admired in literature is, paradoxically, through the individual and the particular.

The book's final story, "The Boat," is another 'ethnic' Vietnamese tale about a harrowing 13-day journey in which boat people endure squalid conditions, survive a terrifying storm at sea, then almost die of thirst before finally reaching land. The protagonists in the five other stories, however, are a 14-year-old Colombian hit man, an elderly and ailing New York painter, an Australian teenager, an 8-year-old Japanese girl in Hiroshima in August 1945 and an American attorney visiting an Iranian friend in Tehran. That range of characters is unusual, but what is truly remarkable about these stories is that the language and tone of each one is perfectly suited to the characters and setting, even incorporating snatches of Colombian gangster slang, Vietnamese proverbs and wartime Japanese patriotic slogans. The stories are so different from one another it is hard to believe all seven are the work of a single author.

Of all these heartrending stories of pain and loss, the most moving and unforgettable in the collection is "Halflead Bay," which, at 69 pages, is also the longest story in the book. Rarely has one read such a sensitive and empathetic treatment of adolescent angst, all the more remarkable because the story's main character is shy and inarticulate. Eighteen-year-old Jamie experiences an unaccustomed moment in the limelight as his high school's sports hero, attracting the attention of the glamorous Alison Fischer. But Jamie knows that by encouraging her flirtation, he is setting himself up for a savage beating by her Neanderthal boyfriend. On a deeper level, the story deals with how Jamie and his younger brother (and by extension their fisherman father) struggle with the knowledge that their mother is dying of multiple sclerosis. As if this were not painful enough, the achingly beautiful bay where they live in Australia, which has provided the family with a good living for generations, is also dying, having been overfished, and is losing its port traffic to nearby Maroomba. The story is especially memorable for its richly poetic Australian vernacular, a language Nam Le clearly feels in his bones.

The future looks bright for Nam Le. As Faulkner observed, voices like his not only record the human condition but also help us endure and prevail."

(Click logo on left for full review, or here for full San Francisco Chronicle profile of Nam Le.)


Los Angeles Times review, Antoine Wilson

Chicago Tribune review, Antoine Wilson

Baltimore Sun review, Antoine Wilson



Antoine Wilson, 6 July 2008:

"At the risk of being accused of judging a book by its cover, I would like to begin this review of Nam Le's astounding collection, The Boat, with a simple observation. The word "stories" does not appear on the cover. Pulling the book off the shelf, you could reasonably assume you were holding a novel in your hand. The omission reflects publishing's current wooziness toward short-story collections. The common wisdom is that they don't sell; the word "stories" is to be avoided, and the more linked the collection, the better.

In this context, The Boat is a refreshingly diverse and panoramic debut. Its seven stories are set in Iowa City, the slums of Colombia, Manhattan, coastal Australia, Hiroshima, Iran and the South China Sea, with characters as varied as a Japanese third-grader, an aging painter with hemorrhoids and an American woman visiting Iran for the first time.

In "Cartagena," a gripping tale of adolescent friendship, crime and loyalty, Juan Pablo, a 14-year-old assassin from Medellín, has been ordered to kill one of his closest friends. After he fails to eliminate his target, he is summoned by his 'agent,' known as El Padre, a meeting that will most likely end in his own death. In less capable hands, this material would quickly devolve into cartoonish violence and two-dimensional stereotype, but Le's masterful treatment results in a rich unveiling that renders the story more complex at every turn. The atmosphere is utterly authentic, the language spare and idiomatic: 'Street kids scavenge for food by the roadside, some of them inhaling the pale yellow sacol from supermarket bags — their eyes half-open and animal and unblinking.' Assuming that Le has never himself been employed by the Colombian drug cartels, the story must have required a considerable amount of research — yet the narrative never feels weighed down. Reading these stories, you're left feeling that Le has been all over the planet and has poked at everything with a sharp stick.

In "Meeting Elise," Henry Luff, an aging, 'well- regarded neo-figurative painter,' prepares to meet his adult daughter for the first time since she was an infant — she's giving a cello recital at Carnegie Hall. Luff's narration ranges from the comic to the pathetic, and the world is vividly drawn, but what is most remarkable about the story is the way in which Le deftly juggles dialogue, memory and the physical sense of an aging man's ailing body to create a continuous, seamless consciousness, wholly convincing throughout.

Le's characters tend to be people in transit, people who, for one reason or another, have come unmoored and find themselves among other unmoored people, all of them trying to find their way to safety and stability. He resists the urge to explain them away and instead inhabits them with the sort of visceral empathy that cannot be taught.

In the title story, the transit is also literal. A refugee named Mai forges a wary alliance with a woman and her son on a refugee boat in the South China Sea. Le keeps us keenly aware of the gulf between propinquity and genuine human connection. 'She was crammed in by a boatload of human bodies, thinking of her father and becoming overwhelmed, slowly, with loneliness. ... She stayed in that human cocoon, heaving and rolling, concentrating, until it was over.'

The finest story in the collection is "Love and Honor and Pity and Pride and Compassion and Sacrifice," which is narrated by a 25-year-old lawyer-turned-writer named Nam who is attending the Iowa Writers' Workshop. (Le worked as a lawyer before attending the Iowa Writers' Workshop.) ... Though Nam is obviously invented, the parallels invite us to treat the entire collection as not just a book by Nam Le, but also as the fictional product of a fictional young Vietnamese writer, also named Nam. It's a clever, if diaphanous, frame. A teacher in the story urges Nam to write an 'ethnic story,' stating that 'ethnic literature's hot. And important too.' The piece revolves around Nam's struggle to finish this 'ethnic story' while his laconic, somewhat estranged father is visiting. He writes the story of his father's surviving the My Lai massacre. Though we never get to see the draft, the details are conveyed. The story we're reading both contains and transforms the 'ethnic story' it refers to. What eventually emerges is a deeply moving story about a son and father attempting to come to terms with themselves, with each other and with the past. ... "Love and Honor and Pity and Pride and Compassion and Sacrifice," in its complexity, in its range, in its depiction of a struggle to make sense of experience, achieves the realm of Literature.

(Click logo on left for full review.)



Washington Post review, Jonathan Penner



Jonathan Penner, 16 July 2008:

"Ambitious and confident, these seven stories rise from diverse cultures and are filtered through characters of radically different sensibilities. Nam Le combines research and dreaming in a wonderfully wide range of imagined worlds.

'There's no place that's not strange to us,' Le has said in an interview. 'Fiction makes strange even the places we think we know.' It's true. And he writes best about the places whose strangeness he discovers himself, where history and headlines have left no footprint, raised no flag."

(Click logo on left for full review.)




New York Review of Books review, Jonathan Mirsky



Jonathan Mirsky, 20 November 2008:

"Nam Le, the young author of The Boat, was born in Vietnam and raised in Australia. Only the first and last short stories in his very good first collection have anything to do with Vietnam. In the first, there is a brief but horrifying account of the My Lai massacre. The final story, 'The Boat,' is about a group of Vietnamese who after many tribulations in Vietnam escape in an overcrowded, rotten boat. One night there

came from every direction the sound of people whispering, hundreds of people, thousands, the musical fall and rise of their native tongue ... Everyone had heard about these places. They had ventured into the fields of the dead, those plots of ocean where thousands had capsized with their scows and drowned.

We know from Heonik Kwon that some of those ghosts may eventually appear somewhere in Vietnam, but those who had drowned, the narrator says, were devoured by sharks — so there would never be a burial."



NPR review, Rick Kleffel



Rick Kleffel, 27 May 2008:

"First books that collect short stories by a single author are rare; it's an honor given only to the best writers. Vietnamese-born Nam Le offers ample evidence of immense talent in his debut collection, The Boat.

Le writes in a remarkable variety of voices and tones, with prose so transparent you won't necessarily even notice that you're reading. You'll simply disappear into the characters and lives Le creates, whether it's a 14-year-old hit man in Colombia ("Cartagena") or an aging New York painter preparing to see his daughter's debut in Carnegie Hall ("Meeting Elise").

At least three of the stories, including the previously unpublished "Halflead Bay," come in at novella length. Another heretofore-unpublished story, "Tehran Calling," is an unexpected thriller set in the Iranian capital. You'll have a hard time finding common threads here besides stellar writing.

(Click logo on left for full review, or here for NPR "All Things Considered" interview.)



NPR review, Alan Cheuse



Alan Cheuse, 3 June 2008:

"Born in Vietnam, raised in Australia and educated at the Iowa Writers Workshop, short-story writer Nam Le writes broad, embracing stories featuring a wide range of characters, including Vietnamese émigrés; Australian high school kids; Colombian drug lords and New York intellectuals. The vast scope of his debut collection is matched only by his prodigal talent."



Star Tribune review, John Freeman

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel review, John Freeman

The Charleston City Paper review, John Freeman

Dallas Morning News review, John Freeman

Hartford Courant review, John Freeman

New City Chicago review, John Freeman

St Petersburg Times review, John Freeman

Baltimore Sun review, John Freeman

Houston Chronicle review, John Freeman

The Star-Ledger review, John Freeman





John Freeman, May/June 2008:

"[An] astonishing debut story collection ... Not yet 30, Le effortlessly gives all seven tales in The Boat a different register, structure, vocabulary and tone. "Halflead Bay," which unfolds in Australia, where Le partially grew up, is a wind-swept, craggy love story — a modern day Wuthering Heights set on the Continental Shelf. The most impressive story in the bunch is "Cartagena," which bounces through the teeming slums of a Colombian city and brings to life Juan Pablo Merendez, a teenage assassin who has been roped into the drug business when an act of self-protection (and vengeance) makes him in desperate need of protection. Le gives Juan Pablo a stunningly vivid voice. He speaks as if through a tunnel, the parameters of his attention narrowed to job and family, payment and loyalty. Then, in the story's agonizing twist, Juan Pablo's employer ratchets up the cost of continued protection to an unthinkable price. Le must have conducted some research to enter these disparate worlds, but his stories never feel like reportage. Even "Hiroshima," a brief, heart-breaking tale about a young girl's routine in the days and hours before the bomb, has a riveting magnetism — somehow truer than the awful truth of that day. In this story, as in others, Le never tries to throw his voice, or mimic how a person like his narrator would speak. Instead, he creates a literary equivalent that is just articulate enough, unusual enough to hold our attention and keep us reading.

Le pulls this feat off again, to tragicomic effect, in "Meeting Elise," in which a dying painter meets his 18-year-old cellist daughter for the first time. 'Here's what I'll do,' the man says to himself in the mirror, trying to prime himself up for one last run at his long-lost daughter. Then he sees himself. 'My face stark white, a shock of bone and skin and hair. My teeth yellow, carious.' Not since Ethan Canin's The Emperor of Air has a young writer imagined himself into an old man's head so effectively.

We are all encased, as if by accident, in such flesh, bound for deterioration. The miracle of these stories is how their author, by sleight of hand and virtue of skill, forgets all that and puts his searching, observant voice wherever he likes."

(Click logo on left for full review.)



The San Diego Union-Tribune review, Robert L. Pincus



Robert L. Pincus, 18 May 2008:

"In his heartrending debut effort, Nam Le's stories distill time, experience.

Look at the array of new releases in bookstores these days and you'll likely agree that their jackets are awash with color and a virtual kaleidoscope of typographic styles. In this company, the bleached-out black-and-white photograph of waves by Clifford Ross on the cover of Nam Le's debut book, The Boat, coupled with its plain type, is a decisive contrast. The image is stark but has an austere sort of beauty. The design is fitting. All seven stories cast lives into high relief. His characters find themselves in situations that test the limits of familial love and friendships and put their lives at risk.

There's a streak of the naturalist in Le that looks back to such writers as Emile Zola, Stephen Crane and Theodore Dreiser. Like them, he sees individual suffering as intimately tied to large social forces. But as much as he explores this link in several stories, the global feel of his stories is tied to the way he's experienced the world. ... Though many of the stories have a socially charged dimension, they aren't concerned in any specific way with issues or social problems, except insofar as they affect the lives of his characters. Le concentrates how they experience our time and the places they inhabit.

[The opening story] gives multifaceted life to the story of a father, deeply enmeshed in his ethnic history, and a son, who is ambivalent about his relationship to it. ... Nam has revelations. One occurs after his father describes his horrific experiences in a reeducation camp after the fall of Saigon. He falls asleep and Nam observes, 'For a moment, watching him, I felt like I had drifted into dream too. For a moment I became my father, watching his sleeping son, reminded of what — for his son's sake — he had tried, unceasingly, to forget.' The way "Love and Honor" ends, conveyed in beautifully restrained poetic language, is heartrending. Indeed, all of these stories break your heart in different ways, each as memorably as the others.

In "Cartagena," Juan Pablo, a 'good soldado' to his drug-lord boss, is forced to make impossible decisions in an attempt to save a friend who he's been asked to kill. The coming nuclear decimation of the city in "Hiroshima" functions like an offscreen disaster in a film, never mentioned but crucial to the story of one family. [Mayako], the youngest child, tells the tale. Like Juan Pablo, she is a captivating narrator.

"The Boat," which concludes the book, is the toughest to read. Not because it isn't wonderfully written. Rather, because it focuses so vividly on the physical and psychological trials of a small group of Vietnamese refugees afloat in a small boat, their supplies exhausted, hoping to reach land. It is a searing portrait of survival, love and sacrifice, which seems revelatory and wise. It is his ethnic story that transcends ethnicity. And it is part of an uncannily mature debut."

(Click logo on left for full review.)




The Oregonian review,



Jim Carmin, 1 June 2008:

"It is uncommon that a writer's first book can be described as masterful, especially when the author is not yet 30 years old. But The Boat, an extraordinary collection of seven short stories by Nam Le, who splits his time between Australia and the United States, is truly that kind of book. Nam Le was born in Vietnam and left as a child — perilously, by boat, as so many families did to escape persecution after the war. He's created a collection that is as complex in its depth as it is accessible in its prose. While the stories could be read in any order, reading them in sequence, and slowly, brings rewards. They could not have greater differences, premises, contexts, characters and situations, yet their parallel concerns of anxiety, displacement and disappointment clearly connect them with palpable tension and raw emotion. ... These stories are so beautifully written and cross emotional barriers of time and place with such clear vision and strong command of language we can only wonder with awe what Nam Le will offer us next."

(Click logo on left for full review)



The Miami Herald review, Amy Driscoll



Amy Driscoll, 8 June 2008:

"Nam Le's debut fiction collection is a harsh and masterful effort, each tale a clean shot through the heart, the aim true. In seven stories covering six continents and an ocean, Le delivers a powerful and assured vision that offers a clear look at his impressive talents. The range is ambitious. ... Steered by a less-certain voice, readers might suffer whiplash. But Le never loses his way.

In the searing first story, "Love and Honor and Pity and Pride and Compassion and Sacrifice," he nails with bitter precision the tension between a Vietnam-born former lawyer trying to meet a deadline at the Iowa Writers' Workshop and his father, who confesses that he witnessed the My Lai massacre when he was 14. The son mines his father's memory for a story to meet his deadline, angrily labeling it the 'ethnic fiction' that he had been striving to avoid. But the process of putting the story down on paper ends with the father's defiant reclaiming of his life story, leaving his stunned son just beginning to see the links between the generations. Le, who attended the same writers' workshop, sketches the life of the immigrant writer son with spare, sure strokes. This is territory he knows well.

Later, in "Tehran Calling," Le almost goes in the opposite direction, exploring the complex and sometimes mistrustful relationship between an American woman named Sarah and the college friend she visits in Iran. Reeling from a broken relationship, Sarah steps off the plane into a world that is foreign in every sense. Her friend Parvin, in the risky business of working for women's rights in Iran, is considered a subversive. Sarah quickly realizes she doesn't understand much of what goes on around her — the language, the customs, the dangers. The feeling only deepens with each day of her stay. Along the way, the hollowness Sarah had hoped to allay with the trip becomes greater, and she begins to question everything she once thought she understood about life and relationships.

This sort of disorienting scenario with its underlying cadence of desperation becomes more familiar with each of Le's stories. He is fascinated by whatever drives people when they're faced with the unthinkable, the unknowable, the unseeable. People under pressure — from world events or such smaller, more personal matters as a writing deadline — reveal themselves in unexpected, interesting and sometimes ruinous ways.

Far from hopeless, though, Le offers small bits of light that pack even more punch for being surrounded by such darkness. Whatever their motivations, many of his characters follow paths forged by determination only to realize that letting go is sometimes the only way to resolve things. This revelation is especially effective in Le's more lyrical entries — in "Cartagena," the story of the youthful assassin, and even more so in "Hiroshima," an accounting from a child's viewpoint of the U.S. nuclear attack. The collection's last story, "The Boat," is as powerful as the first.

[Le's] kaleidoscopic world view is on display throughout the stories, which seamlessly blend cultural traditions, accents and landscapes that run from lush to barren. The collection works in part because Le's confidence as a storyteller is the solid base on which the structure rests. Le doesn't turn away from difficult moments; he stares right at them. Sometimes that boldness is as wince-producing as looking into a too-bright light, but Le always gives the reader a destination. There's a purpose to the tough scenes that builds the reader's trust.

Le is the sort of writer who taps directly into the vein of desperation and offers no shelter. He's not for the faint of heart, but the reward for soldiering on in the toughness of his world is the welcome recognition of a voice clear and brave."

(Click logo on left for full review.)



Denver Post review, Marlon Frisby



Marlon Frisby, 29 June 2008:

"Author Nam Le, in his fiction debut, The Boat, refuses to be confined to one place or to one idea. ... These stories are not a collection centered on characterizing a place like William Trevor's Ireland, but a collection that takes the reader across the globe. From Iowa to Colombia to Australia and Iran, the characters in Le's stories each shape the world around them. In each story, the protagonists create a new atmosphere. Henry, the New York painter, is pretentious and mournful and clever, while Mayako, a young Japanese girl, is playful and creative in her short, choppy, stream-of-consciousness narrative.

But, while Le yearns to explore, he is not afraid to take from his home. In fact, Le's more personal work may stand out the most. "Love and Honor and Pity ..." is a thought-provoking introduction to the world of the author, and "Halfhead Bay," a story that takes place in Le's native Australia, is a very moving, brief coming-of-age tale. "The Boat" is a somber story about southern Vietnamese citizens fleeing their homes after the Vietnam War. Mai finds herself alone and relying on the love she finds in strangers around her to keep her alive.

While Le is a writer who seems to be interested in the issues of the world, he is also a writer interested in the young. The Colombian assassins referred to in the quote from the first story turn out to be from 14 to 16 years old. Little Mayako in "Hiroshima" is only in third grade, and Mai of "The Boat" and Jamie of "Halfhead Bay" both are about 16. Le does not downplay the lives of his children as fiction often does when portraying younger characters but presents them with a seriousness and intelligence that is refreshing.

The Nam Le in "Love and Honor and Pity ..." decides to give a go at writing a story about his father's experiences in Vietnam. It's not a submission to ethnic literature's ability to sell but a genuine interest in trying to resolve the issues of the past. Le's father questions his motives, saying, 'You want their pity,' but Le quickly corrects him: 'I want them to remember.'

The Boat is an impressive debut from a writer with a lot more to give. A writer to be remembered."

(Click logo on left for full review.)




Christian Science Monitor review, Heller McAlpin



Heller McAlpin, 29 May 2008:

"The opening story in Nam Le’s debut collection, The Boat, is as dazzling an introduction to a writer’s work as I’ve read. What first appears to be a story about not knowing what to write — yawn — becomes, through sophisticated literary legerdemain, a devastatingly powerful exploration of a fraught father-son relationship and the son’s gradual understanding of how his father’s brutal wartime experiences at the hands of Americans affected them both.

[And in Le's] moving title story about 16-year-old Mai’s harrowing journey from Vietnam to Malaysia on a storm-tossed, overcrowded, ill-equipped junk ... Mai learns 'how necessary it was to stay on the surface of things. Because beneath the surface was either dread or delirium. As more and more bundles were thrown overboard she taught herself not to look — not to think of the bundles as human ...' Nam Le digs beneath the surface and unfailingly sees the bundles as human in these accomplished stories about the terrible reverberations of violence."

(Click logo on left for full review.)



Cleveland Plain Dealer review, John Repp



The Cleveland Plain Dealer, John Repp, 11 May 2008:

"[In The Boat], 29-year-old Nam Le demonstrates the aesthetic ambition and sentence-making chops of a much more experienced writer. After finishing the first story in his debut story collection, I ticked off the technical obstacles he'd constructed: a gimmicky premise (blocked writer talks about being a blocked writer), postmodern trappings (a first-person narrator identical in name and personal history to the actual Nam Le), cliched plot complications (the narrator's immigrant father comes for a surprise visit, embarrasses him, shames him, becomes the agent of realization), and an O. Henry-ish metaphorical trapdoor at the end. Yet rather than putting off the reader, each moment of technical brio deepens the dramatization of the all-but-unspeakable power of love between parent and child. By the end, any perceptive reader will agree that the 'world could be shattered by a small stone dropped like a single syllable.'

Though none of the six remaining stories are autobiographical in any but the most incidental ways, each contemplates love with a sometimes unnerving ferocity. The range of settings and points of view in The Boat beggars belief, not least because the stories never betray an errant trace of the research that surely informs them. ... In each case, Le parts veil after veil of illusion, his protagonists having to confront the realization that 'there was no incongruity at all — or maybe everything was incongruous. Maybe that was the condition of things.' Even if these stories were just competent, "Halflead Bay" would make The Boat one of the strongest first books of fiction in the last 10 or 15 years. ... The plot unfolds with remorseless logic, harsh beauty and an almost unbearable tenderness that reminded me of Dubliners. Jamie's journey toward his fate passes through scenes exact in their details and gorgeous in their musicality.

I've been telling friends about The Boat for weeks now, saying "This guy's got it." Now I'm telling you. Pass it on."

(Click logo on left for full review.)



News & Observer review, Denise Gess



The Raleigh News & Observer, Denise Gess, 18 May 2008:

"Be assured that Nam Le's brilliant debut short story collection, The Boat, will quicken your pulse and awaken every nerve in your being. For avid readers who have hungered for stories that can transport them physically, intellectually and emotionally, stories so well-structured and narrated they appear to reinvent the form itself, the literary American Idol is Nam Le.

Born in Vietnam and raised in Australia, 29-year-old Le's dynamic prose and remarkable range of subjects and points of view defy explanation. These seven stories are set all over the globe ... One expects lapses of credibility with settings so diverse. But Nam Le's photographic eye and pitch-perfect ear capture each place so well the reader will have to remind himself that he's reading and is not actually standing on a bluff in Australia where 'the town glinted like a single eye,' or walking on Summit Street in Iowa with its 'double-storied houses, their smooth lawns sloping down to the sidewalks like golf greens.'

[In "Love and Honor and Pity and Pride and Compassion and Sacrifice,"] what begins as a clever story about how stories are written and what writers will co-opt in order to make their work salable and bankable, deepens into a magnificent tour de force about the bonds and betrayals between a father and son, betrayals that often take root and grow knottier over time. The final twist in this story, shocking and earned, will leave you, as it does Nam, 'so full of wanting, I thought it would flood my heart.'

The collection continues to astonish with each successive story ... In "Meeting Elise" a successful, middle-age New York City painter who may have colorectal cancer hopes to reunite with the daughter he has not seen since she was a baby. 'Even before she could speak,' Henry says, 'she'd look at me, unblinking, bringing me down to an accusable level ... I hadn't wanted her and she knew it.' Now, on the day of Elise's cello performance at Carnegie Hall, Henry hopes to rectify years of estrangement in a single luncheon. Le structures his story and conducts Henry's voice so well, we don't see what the story is up to until it's upon us. Not, after all, the story of a man seeking forgiveness, but instead the portrait of a frightened, angry, grieving man battling his own mortality — and losing.

Loss is at the heart of "Halflead Bay" in which Jamie, a teenager in a fishing village in Australia tries to keep ahead of his mother's deterioration from MS; his desire for Alison, the off-limits girlfriend of a frightening, violent thug; and his father's expectations. The story contains some of Le's most exquisite prose, recording everything from the observable gradations of light to death as 'a thrown switch, a fizzling of the senses, the sound sucked out of things. Your eyes a dark cold green hurt.' In "Tehran Calling" a young woman confronts herself and her misconceptions about her best friend, Parvin. And in "Cartagena" you won't be able to dislodge the blistered, hardened voice of the teenage assassin, Juan Pablo Merendez, from your head, nor will you soon forget the voice of the orphan narrator at Hiroshima before the bomb is dropped. Finally, the journey on the overcrowded trawler ferrying Vietnamese escapees across the South China Sea is unquestionably one of the most remarkable, complex stories since Conrad's Heart of Darkness. In the first story, the alter-ego Nam makes reference to his boat people story, glibly referring to it as though it were a toss-off, easily achieved. It is clear, however, after reading this final stunning work that Nam Le spent everything he had — love, honor, pity, pride, compassion and sacrifice — to write it.

There is so much to say about Nam Le's genius it would take a book and even that may not be enough. With The Boat, Nam Le defeats time, hollowness and cliché in each story, earning him the right to reap sheaves, buckets, reservoirs of generous, unabashed praise."

(Click logo on left for full review.)




Omaha World-Herald review, Larry Aydlette

Palm Beach Post review, Larry Aydlette

Twin Cities Pioneer Press review, Larry Aydlette

The State review, Larry Aydlette

The Olympian review, Larry Aydlette



Larry Aydlette, 18 May 2008:

"A sensational debut ... There is something thrilling in discovering a gifted new writer on the American scene. And that is what we have in Nam Le, whose short story collection, The Boat, easily will be among the significant works of fiction published this year. [Le] writes stories that both crackle with immediacy and sport a cool, focused tone. His characters are drawn with an old master's depth, whether he's writing about Vietnamese boat people, a New York painter, a child being vaporized at Hiroshima or Australian surf slackers. It's not often that a work of highbrow fiction moves like a suspense novel, but that's the kind of talent Nam Le displays in The Boat. It reaffirms your faith in literature.

To be sure, Le writes about the old verities: the disconnect between parents and children, and the intersection of love, death, history and violence. There is a spare architecture to his sentences, yet he has the ability to create complex worlds, shadowed by bleakness and heartbreak.

[Le's] first story, "Love and Honor and Pity and Pride and Compassion and Sacrifice," alternates between playful satire and dread seriousness, showing the kind of balancing act Le can pull off. ... Le begins by deftly sending up the publishing world's thirst for "ethnic lit" realism. When Le (or the character of Le) complains to a friend about having writer's block, the friend replies: 'How can you have writer's block? Just write a story about Vietnam.' As though it's easy as that. But Le slyly does just that, establishing his recurring theme: the historic and emotional distances separating parent and child. When his hard, disciplinarian father reveals how he was trapped in the My Lai massacre as a boy, Le responds by writing it up as his term paper. But that creates yet another gulf between generations, as a father tries to bury his memories while his son is busy resurrecting them.

OK, you might say, Le can follow the dictum of writing what he knows. But how does that explain the next story, "Cartagena," where Le slips easily into the voice of a poor, teenage assassin who is asked to kill his best friend for the Colombian drug cartels, or risk danger to his own family? Le vividly sketches the cardboard cities and muddy streets of Medellin, and how despair, fear and poverty force children into a moral blankness. He makes characters like El Padre, the drug leader, come alive through a description of his wet, braided dreadlocks and slightly fatty face. The story has the hypnotic power of a Graham Greene nightmare.

Then, he shifts to New Yorker territory in "Meeting Elise," an Updike-like character study of an aging figurative painter who is trying to reconcile with his estranged musician daughter the same day he is diagnosed with cancer. Le produces a fever dream of upscale regret and longing, as his blustery character mulls his failures as a lover and his frustrations with his broken-down body.

Le's longest story, basically a novella and the book's masterpiece, is "Halflead Bay," an Aussie twist on Hemingway's Nick Adams stories. Here, a rugby-playing teen is played for a fool by the school harlot, tests his courage when targeted by a bully and faces an uncertain future as his mother dies slowly of cancer. It is full of rich description, an ear for native lingo and keen observations of dysfunctional family dynamics. References to heat, water and death abound, and Le writes as though nature were overtaking a rotting civilization:

The house was barely visible from the road, blotted out by foliage: ironwoods, kurrajongs, ghost gums bursting up through the brush. The garden was wild ... Sprockets of leaves. Green everywhere plaited with brightly colored spikelets and bracts. There was his bedroom, the shedlike bungalow. Once his mum's studio, it still gave off an aftersmell of turpentine — faint as something leaked by a body in the dark and dried by morning.

Le returns to Vietnam in the final, title piece, and it is one of the most draining stories you will ever read. After the Communists reunify Vietnam and send her father to a re-education camp, a teen girl, Mai, is placed on a crowded boat to Malaysia and presumably freedom. But the boat breaks down and drifts for weeks, as water slowly runs out and the death toll rises. There are overwhelming descriptions of people packed into heated holds reeking of urine and sickness, or bodies blistering on deck in the unforgiving heat. It would be unfair to give away more of the story, except to say that its power and sadness are hard to shake off.

In the blurbs accompanying the book, one writer friend of Le's likens this collection to James Joyce's Dubliners, which is an impossible standard for any writer, especially a first-time writer, to achieve. But as you read the last lines of "The Boat," it is not a stretch to flash on "The Dead," the legendary final story in Joyce's collection.

Of course, there is a danger of overpraising a writer's first book. Le, the fiction editor of The Harvard Review, has had decades to craft The Boat. Does he have a second act? We will find out. In the meantime, he has written a book filled with grace, texture and humanity."

(Click logo on left for full review)



New York Sun review, Benjamin Lytal



Benjamin Lytal, 21 May 2008:

"How to make fiction now.

All sincere works of the imagination, [Nam Le's] stories yet bear a self-conscious riposte to conventional wisdom. If ethnic writers are doomed to exploit their own heritage, the Vietnamese-Australian author seems to say, then let them exploit other, totally alien heritages as well. ... The proprietary view of ethnic literature — the notion that only a writer of a certain color can write a certain story — is just the tip of the iceberg. There are unwritten rules beyond ethnicity that govern any author's subject matter. Should a son tell his father's story? Men may be allowed to write in the voice of a woman, but it will always be commented upon. And those who have experienced great loss will usually be taken more seriously than those who have only imagined loss. Perhaps these unwritten rules are eternal and perfectly natural — but they matter more in today's climate, where fiction writers are ambitious to write about faraway places and especially about strife and suffering beyond their own experience. Perhaps it's the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, perhaps it's globalization — but a brief survey of this spring's hot debut fiction showed that almost every author privileged world history over private life.

Mr. Le stands out from the crowd because of the breadth of his research and the confidence of his imagination. He may prize the universal, but he doesn't skimp on concrete detail. In "Tehran Calling," for example, he could have described the row between an American visitor and her Iranian friend with dialogue and a few descriptions, but instead he takes us walking on the streets, describes smells, effects of lighting, and the fine points of street wear. [We] are less likely to question Mr. Le's authority, apparent as it is, than we are to mistrust our own right to judge his stories. I found "Hiroshima," the most experimental story here, also to be one of the most absorbing. ... But was I simply lumping "Hiroshima" in with Mr. Le's other Asian tales, which are also his most authentic? Or did the story's historical setting put me on the more familiar ground of historical fiction? Questions like these make reading The Boat a minefield.

There are many ticklish questions to ask about fiction and its sources, and they have been asked, recently, by many writers. Mr. Le's distinction is to ask them without once seeming other than a hardworking practitioner of quality American lit."

(Click logo on left for full review.)




Baltimore Sun review, Victoria A. Brownworth



The Baltimore Sun, Victoria A. Brownworth, 25 May 2008:

"Nam Le's debut collection of short stories The Boat is one of the best collections of the year. Pushcart Prize-winner Le focuses on issues of displacement and dislocation, risk and redemption in these seven stories with seven immensely compelling characters — including himself in the quixotic opening tale. The stories take place in the United States, Australia, Colombia, Iran and Vietnam, and each story's central character faces some kind of monumental decision that will be life-altering to her or him or to someone else. Mesmerizingly good and sharply resonant, these stories introduce a major talent."



O Magazine review, Vince Passaro




Vince Passaro, May 2008:

"Wide-ranging, knife-sharp stories by a masterly 29-year-old.

Nam Le was born in Vietnam and raised in Australia, yet his debut collection of stories, The Boat (Knopf), reveals as mature and certain an American voice as just about any native-born writer twice his age. His prose evokes Philip Roth's — sure of itself, clean, and invisibly effective. These muscular and psychologically rich narratives take place in the United States, Australia, Colombia, and in a storm-tossed boat on the South China Sea in the story that gives the book its name. Le contends with a startlingly wide array of characters: a young man dealing with his difficult father ('My father was drawn to weakness, even as he tolerated none in me'); a 14-year-old in Medellín facing the consequences of being an assassin; a high-school kid in Australia; an old, sick man in New York who encounters his long-lost daughter; a mother with two children escaping from Vietnam. What's notable is the structural soundness of these powerful and far-ranging pieces: Each one is built to exactly the shape, and flows in exactly the tone and language, that will suit the needs of the story. The final and longest story in the book, "The Boat," takes on the deepest issues of life, love, and death, something worthy of Conrad or James. Nam Le is a remarkably sophisticated new writer."



Phillyburbs review, Deidre Wengen

(The Bucks County Courier Times
The Burlington County Times
The Intelligencer
The Record)



Deidre Wengen, 13 May 2008:

"[The Boat] provides wide-ranging excursions across the globe — a drug slum in Colombia, a religious festival in Tehran, an orchestra recital in New York City. Le proves masterful at crafting authentic and believable locations. In every story, the detailed descriptions of setting dictate the tone and mood. In "Halflead Bay" the craggy, gray landscape provides the perfect backdrop for a lonely, lovesick teenager who suppresses emotions about his mother’s terminal illness ('Now, in the shock of early morning, he was wrenched back into his body. The rocks slimy with moss. The water ice-cold and molecular … Here is the saddest place I know'). The alarming title story depicts an overcrowded, foul-smelling fishing trawler which encapsulates the fear and desperation of two fleeing Vietnamese women who attempt to protect a listless, young boy as they make an excruciating journey across the sea ('She felt the panicked limbs, people clawing for direction, sudden slaps of ice-cold water … The whole world reeled … So this was what it was like, she thought, the moment before death'). In churning, graphic prose, Le evokes deep emotion just by describing the way a wave crashes on the shore or a beam of light streaks through a widow. The sweeping scope of place in this collection is astonishing and the author uses it to propel the stories forward.

The characters that Le creates are as diverse as the settings. A crotchety, old artist in "Meeting Elise" acts a modern day Herzog or Humbert Humbert who longs to meet his estranged daughter on the day of her Carnegie Hall cello performance. The on-edge "Cartagena" features a 14-year old hired assassin who lives in a Colombian ghetto and is assigned to knock-off one of his best friends. The voice, the feel and the thought process of each and every character is exclusively his or her own. Le writes frightened women, old men and young children as convincingly as he writes himself. He picks up the dialects and traditions of different cultures and inserts them seamlessly into the stories, as if they were inherent blueprints from which the stories were built. The impact of Nam Le’s writing makes it difficult to believe that this is his debut collection. He writes with assuredness and impeccable precision. His descriptions range from lush and beautiful ('She rocked above him, coaxing her face out of the shadows. The star-drenched sky reeling') to graphic and repulsive ('In the swaying half dark, people pitched forward and back, one by one, adding to the slosh of saltwater and urine in the bilge'), all of them strikingly vivid.

There is a serious sadness that prevails throughout these stories — a system of hopeless, fledgling nerve endings that reel and twitch with each turn of the page. Every tale that the author tells is so puncturing, so sharp, that the whole collection becomes as dangerous and alluring as a drawer full of kitchen knives. Nam Le provides a genuine new voice in literary fiction and is undoubtedly an author to watch."

(Click logo on left for full review)


Deidre Wengen, 31 December 2009:

"My top five books of the decade. ... The Boat by Nam Le (2008) — I had to include this short story collection by Nam Le on my list. I was completely blown away by the way he builds a story. This collection covers all corners of the globe from a drug slum in Colombia and an opera house in New York to a boat on the middle of an ocean voyage and a small town in Australia. Each story is breathtaking." review, Portsmouth Herald, Faye Levow

(Portsmouth Herald
Exeter News-Letter
Hampton Union
York County Coast Star
The York Weekly
Rockingham News



Faye Levow, 9 May 2008:

"Stories [that] engulf you and transport you to another time, another place — give you a window into someone else’s soul almost deeper than if it were your own. ... Long on characters, depth and emotion: you’d swear that [Nam Le] has lived in every one of those stories [that make up The Boat]. When you finish each one, you will feel as if you have read a novel, your breathing will be heavy and your heart will be pounding as you return from a deeply personal adventure that has, in some strange way, become your own. ... The thread tying the stories together in The Boat is the dramatic humanity, the poetic language, and most of all, the idea that depth and intensity of human emotion is expressed on every continent. We are not so different after all."

(Click logo on left for full review.)




Christianity Today review, Linda McCullough Moore



Linda McCullough Moore, 2 June 2008:

"Page by page, or better, moment by moment, through this lovely book a lyricism courses. Here is writing that understands full well how language buoys thought, how worded beauty honors story. We can, I think, too often be swept up by compelling narratives, and fail to stop to credit charms and spells, enchantment in the things the words are made to do. I want to say, there's magic here.

[While] the stories share no single character, location, culture, plot, or voice, the reader can't help being haunted by a sense that it is a single story this book tells, a large and worthy story.

Many writers of short fiction have a favorite story. Alice Munro, that writer's writer, mentions Maeve Brennan's "Springs of Affection" as her own. Those not yet committed could do worse than to choose Le's story "Cartagena." It is the business of art, I think, to open up our hearts to worship. ... I could easily name, when asked, "Cartagena" as my own favorite until such time as someone writes a better narrative of giving one's life for his friend, of dying to self — that sweetest, meanest of surrenders — and of knowing resurrection morning, when 'As the sun rises you can see,' 'against the steel gray water,' 'that each small, black shape is a man.' I read the final paragraphs and tears attest that heaven is not clouds and harps, but men and fish and fruitful labor.

No cheap grace here. We are told this story by a 14-year-old hit man in Colombia. The crafting perfect to the last detail. There's dialogue, but there are no quotation marks. Nothing is so clearly boundaried as that. Not thoughts and words, and for dead certain, not harm and good. The so-young hit man's tone and voice are counterpoints of his daily causing/fearing death. 'I come here to feel nothing,' he says, to 'The streets of headstones.' The killer's acts are chilling, while his thoughts are eloquent. The story's ending/beginning is, as they say, breathtaking. Life-taking. Life-making. [Nam Le's] writing all but splits the skies.

One delights to praise effusively the man who has written this collection, who has done whatever it has taken to make it come to be. Good, honorable work, the sacrifice of privacy, the willingness to give the self to art in every way that is required, from opening veins to living for long months of writing in the middle of the pain of other people. And so we reach the part of the proceedings where we name the names of writers Nam Le calls to mind. (Zola, Crane, Dreiser, Joyce have been whispered in this regard.) But just this once, what say we forebear. How about we just pay tribute as due and not compare Le's work to anyone's. I would so like to let him to stand alone. He does it well."

(Click logo on left for full review.)



Bookforum review, Laird Hunt




Laird Hunt, April/May 2008:

"Stellar ... The unusually various characters in Nam Le’s excellent debut collection live between worlds. ... The book’s seven stories are also diverse in setting and mode. Consequently, the reader ... becomes a participant in Le’s transglobal examination of lives being lived in mental and physical border zones.

Le leaps from world to world with the help of his unusually supple prose. It can shift over the course of a page from intense, detailed understatement to the workmanlike to the searingly eloquent. The textures of prose found among the stories are equally distinct. ... In The Boat’s opening story, Le’s fictional alter ego ... [is] drafting a story, much like the one we are reading, that simultaneously enacts, dismantles, and expands on the genre. The Boat manages to breathe similarly fresh air into the overly familiar idea of the short-story collection. The result is bracing."

(Click logo on left for full review.)




Entertainment Weekly review, Jennifer Reese



Jennifer Reese, May 2008:

"The characters in Nam Le’s The Boat are impossible to pigeonhole, ranging from an egomaniacal Manhattan artist to a Colombian gangster to a hard-drinking Iowa M.F.A. student. [The] standout [is] the brutal title story [which] dramatizes the plight of three Vietnamese boat people. Le’s viscerally affecting writing and bold imagination mark an exciting debut."



TimeOut NY review, Sophie Fels

Time Out Dubai review, Sophie Fels



Sophie Fels, 7 May 2008:

"[Nam Le's] stories connect across country, class and circumstance—not only through Le’s ambition to nail each milieu, but through his obsession with the ways people live in and reveal their cultures. The book’s success isn’t just a matter of scene-setting; it also depends on Le’s characters and his classic, coincidences-explained-later plotting. He’ll make you marvel at the web his South American hit men are caught in, and he’ll make you worry for them. But what about the great, underrepresented culture of the opening story’s nagging grad student? As it turns out, Le’s skill extends even there. In a piece about an Iranian activist and the clueless white friend who comes to visit her, he writes the part of the American interloper with sympathy and aplomb. If this is navel-gazing, there are X-Ray specs involved; seeing through himself, through his characters, Le offers real insight."

(Click logo on left for full review.)



Elle Magazine review, Lisa Shea



Lisa Shea, May 2008:

"Seven stories set around the globe - from Iowa to Tehran, Manhattan to Australia, and Colombia to Hiroshima — make up Vietnam-born Nam Le's dynamic debut collection, The Boat, in which achingly familiar alliances converge in ingeniously unlikely places."



Nguoi Viet 2 review, Ky-Phong Tran



Ky-Phong Tran, 7 May 2008:

"[Nam Le's] stories are reflective of their writer: eclectic, diverse, true in their toughness and giving in their complexity. ... ''Love and Honor and Pity and Pride and Compassion and Sacrifice'' ... is art at its highest form, incorporating satire, metafiction, homage, and social critique into a story about a writer and his father and the infamous My Lai Massacre. The title story ''The Boat'' is a fictional story about boat people fleeing Vietnam. It is filled with so much emotional truth, it borders the line with non-fiction. The tale of a boy, his mother, and a young escapee, it does for boat people what Ham Tran’s film ''Journey From the Fall'' did, what art must always do: It turned a tale into an experience and brought us that much closer to one another."

(Click logo on left for full review.



Bookpage review, Jessica Inman



Jessica Inman, May 2008:

"Standing ovation for first collection.

The single-author short story collection has its devoted fans. But The Boat — the first collection from Nam Le ... is so engaging, so unequivocally well done, that it's sure to appeal to any fan of good writing. From the opening tale, it’s hard not to be giddy. ["Love and Honor and Pity and Pride and Compassion and Sacrifice"] is a brilliantly self-conscious and humorous slice of the writing life, which doubles as a poignant story about fathers and sons and family tragedies. ... Things only get better from there. Nam Le is a chameleon of voices and points of view, leading the reader through the experiences of an older man, a disillusioned young woman, a boy on the cusp of adulthood, a teenage girl. The Boat takes us all over the world with fantastic verisimilitude. ... "Halflead Bay" is an enviable achievement — an adolescent’s battle to find courage as his life begins to turn upside down, the story developed with perfect suspense. ... And the title story offers urgency, poignancy and heartbreaking tragedy. As if the stories themselves weren’t enough ... the skill of the author is a spectacle to behold. He manages to avoid so many pitfalls. He doesn’t shy away from stark and disturbing images, for example, yet he doesn’t rely on the grotesque to create effective writing. The reader can sense his personal investment in the work, but the stories aren’t even close to self-indulgent. It’s enough to give a person a literary crush. Each story is dark and deep, exquisitely constructed and beautifully told. Nam Le is a studied, competent and graceful writer, and The Boat is both a contemporary treasure and a harbinger of good things to come."



Library Journal review, Barbara Hoffert



Barbara Hoffert, May 2008:

"[A] stellar debut collection ... Le writes rawly rigorous stories that capture entire worlds; each character is distinctive and fully fleshed out, each plot eventful as a full-length novel but artfully compressed. Highly recommended."

(Click logo on left and scroll down for full review.)



Booklist review, Ellen Loughran



Ellen Loughran, 1 May 2008:

"[The Boat is] set on six continents and at sea, in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, [with] characters ranging in age from childhood through the senior years. [The characters] are brought to life in powerful stories of love and death through a muscular yet delicate style: lyrical, often poetic, leaving the obvious unsaid and endings ambiguous. Readers of Philip Roth and André Brink, as well as those who enjoy complex and emotion-charged short fiction, will devour this book.



Kirkus Reviews, Kirkus review



Kirkus Reviews, 1 April 2008:

"A polished and intense debut of astonishing range ... Consummately self-assured."



PW, Publishers Weekly, Publishers Weekly review, starred review



Publishers Weekly, 31 March 2008 (starred review):

PW, Publishers Weekly, starred reviews, starred review"From a Colombian slum to the streets of Tehran, seven characters in seven stories struggle with very particular Swords of Damocles in Pushcart Prize winner Le’s accomplished debut. ... The opening [story] features a Vietnamese character named Nam who is struggling to complete his Iowa Writer’s Workshop master’s when his father comes for a tense visit ... The story’s ironies are masterfully controlled by Le, and reverberate through the rest of this peripatetic collection. Taken together, the stories cover a vast geographic territory and are filled with exquisitely painful and raw moments of revelation, captured in an economical style as deft as it is sure."

(Click logo on left and scroll down for full review.)




More —




Kate Springer's review at International Mosaic (August 2009)

Steven W. Beattie's review at The Shakespearean Rag (27 August 2009)

Amy Weldon's review at The Inspire(d) Media (June 2009)

Mike Valente's review at Year of Recommendations (12 May 2009)

Andrew Seal's discussion at The Quarterly Conversation (March 2009)

Michael Caylo-Baradi's discussion at PopMatters (6 March 2009)

Frances Milliken's review in The Bowdoin Orient (13 February 2009)

Largehearted Boy's Favorite Short Story Collections of 2008 selection (31 December 2008)

Rob Cline's Corridor Buzz Best Books of 2008 citation (29 December 2008)

Chau Tu's review in Anthem Magazine (29 December 2008)

Seth Marko's Book Catapult's Notable List 2008 citation (19 December 2008)

John Fox's Best Short Story Collections of 2008 selection (15 December 2008)

Edward Champion's Top Ten Books of 2008 citation (9 December 2008)

Jiae Kim's review at Theme (August 2008)

Dorothy W.'s review at The Short Story Reading Challenge (27 July 2008)

Richard von Busack's review in Metro Silicon Valley, Metro Santa Cruz & North Bay Bohemian (16 July 2008)

Alisha Bowen's review at In the Shadow of Mt. TBR (6 July 2008)

Mark Sarvas's mention at The Elegant Variation (20 June 2008)

Clayton Moore's review in the Rocky Mountain News (12 June 2008)

Poornima Apte's review at (11 June 2008)

Rhena Tantisunthorn's review at Minneapolis City Pages (11 June 2008)

Suzi Steffen's review at the Eugene Weekly (5 June 2008)

Kester Smith's review at BookSense (June 2008)

Shelly Lowenkopf's review at the Montecito Journal (29 May 2008)

Short review in Esquire (19 May 2008)

Katie Kotsovos's review in The Daily Vanguard (15 May 2008)

John Matthew Fox's review at BookFox (13 May 2008)

Rick Kleffel's review at The Agony Column (9 May 2008)

Jan Gardner's mention in The Boston Globe (4 May 2008)

Seth Marko's review at KPBS's blog Culture Lust (29 April 2008)

Anna Feuer's review at The Columbia Spectator (29 February 2008)