cover image Invisible Orphans

Invisible Orphans

Jade Moon Le. Rare Bird, $28 (232p) ISBN 978-1-64428-314-1

Le debuts with a potent but uneven story of love and loss. In 1984, Hong Kong native Vivi takes a trip to Hainan Island where she meets Matthew, an American university lecturer in China. The pair marry and move to America, and then Matthew’s suicide turns Vivi’s world upside down. Consumed with guilt over Matthew’s death, Vivi spends years spiraling through her own depression and attempting to move on in various ways including reconnecting with Matthew’s family, joining a support group, and taking a new job in environmental protection to honor Matthew’s dedication to conservation. The narrative amounts to a drawn-out meditation on grief, and the prose is, at times, elegant in its heartbreaking simplicity (“What is wrong with me? What’s wrong is I have lost you,” Vivi writes to Matthew). Le frankly and thoroughly delves into the impact of mental illness and suicide as well as on loved ones, and Vivi and Matthew’s letters throughout their marriage form a moving testament to a love that lingers despite the twin specters of depression and death. But these fail to distract from structural issues such as confusing time jumps and abrupt chapter endings. It’s a strong effort, but one that unfortunately doesn’t quite cohere. (Nov.)