cover image Cold Enough for Snow

Cold Enough for Snow

Jessica Au. New Directions, $16.95 trade paper (138p) ISBN 978-0-8112-3155-8

Chinese Australian writer Au’s hypnotic debut follows a Chinese mother and daughter during a vacation in Japan. The pair meets in Tokyo and carries on simple conversations as they visit museums, stroll in parks, shop for souvenirs, and have meals during the seasonal typhoon rains. The daughter narrates, examining her mother and their relationship as she observes both her mother’s behavior and the way that she has aged since they last saw each other. Yet despite the simplistic nature of the story, its meandering nature invites the reader to wonder what has really brought these two women together—and whether the mother is there at all. The narrator remembers stories the mother told her as a child about the mother’s childhood in Hong Kong, such as about the narrator’s reclusive older brother and lost love from his youth—only the mother now claims the details are all wrong. Some readers will find their patience tried by the vague Tokyo episodes, but Au exquisitely conjures the family’s nebulous past, and is at her best when folding in the perspectives of other family members. Once this probing and surprising text catches hold, it leaves the reader with lingering questions. (Feb.)