Beauty Plus Pity

Kevin Chong. Arsenal Pulp (Consortium, dist.), $16.95 trade paper (253p) ISBN 978-1-55152-416-0
Chong (Baroque-a-Nova) imbues the hero of his second novel with a healthily self-deprecating sense of humor, which in varying degrees succeeds in saving this coming-of-age saga from tedium. Malcolm Kwan is a second-generation Chinese-American who has just lost his father, Oliver, to cancer. At the wake, Dad's love child and Malcolm's half-sister, Hadley, sits in a corner, adding to the grief of Malcolm's emotionally unstable mother, Eliza, and generally upsetting the solemnity of the situation. While Malcolm deals with all the usual identity crises of the newly fatherless, he is also gearing up for pursuing a career in modeling, not so much a lifelong as a dim but insistently held desire. His fiancée, Claire, tired of his equally dim desire for her, leaves Malcolm and their shared apartment, conveniently making available space for a blossoming sibling relationship between Malcolm and Hadley. Hadley's adolescent dramas prove to be a much needed foil to Malcolm's self-absorbed, antisocial tendencies, and he discovers in her a surprising side of himself and of his father. This unassuming, well-written novel is quiet in every way—subtly entertaining, poignant, and funny—but suffers from its lack of passion. (Sept.)
Reviewed on: 07/18/2011
Release date: 09/01/2011
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