Fiona and Jane

Jean Chen Ho. Viking, $26 (288p) ISBN 978-0-5932-9604-2

In Ho’s intimate debut collection, two childhood friends, Fiona and Jane, grow up, grow apart, and then back together. The first story, “The Night Market,” begins with 18-year-old Jane’s visit to her father in Taiwan. On her last night there, her father reveals he’s in love with his male friend Lee and that he will not be returning to Jane and her mother in Los Angeles. Reeling after this revelation, Jane reflects on her parents’ relationship and her own budding romantic feelings toward her female piano teacher. From there, the stories follow more or less chronologically, with “Go Slow,” flashing back to an eventful night drinking soju at a strip mall Korean bar when Fiona and Jane are 16, then forward to Fiona’s ambitious move to New York with her boyfriend, Jasper, after college in “The Inheritance,” while Jane stays in California. “Cold Turkey” finds Jane grieving over her father and breaking up with her girlfriend. In later stories, Fiona leaves both law school and a cheating Jasper, and the old friends reconnect. Ho excels at creating characters whose struggles feel deeply human. This packs in plenty of insights about love and friendship. Agent: Ayesha Pande and Serene Hakim, Ayesha Pande Literary. (Jan.)
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