cover image We Two Alone

We Two Alone

Jack Wang. HarperVia, $25.99 (256p) ISBN 978-0-06-308178-9

Wang’s elegant debut delves into the heterogeneity of the Chinese diaspora in stories that take the reader to settings as disparate as 1920s Canada and Nazi-occupied Vienna. Wang is equally convincing with the voice of the insecure Oxford undergraduate whose parents run a Chinese takeaway in “Belsize Park,” as he is with a washed-up Chinese American hockey player and deadbeat dad living in modern-day Florida in “Allhallows.” In “The Nature of Things,” a pregnant wife from Vancouver’s Chinatown is living in Shanghai on the eve of the 1937 Japanese attack. The title story is the longest, and the standout; its protagonist is Leonard Xiao, a Chinese-American actor in his late 40s whose career never quite got off the ground. Having so long wanted to prove his Harvard physicist father wrong about the viability of his career choice, Leonard poignantly grapples with the reality that this may never happen. Occasionally the stories feel as if they end prematurely and avoid narrative conflict, but Wang’s prose is subtle and economical, well suited to his themes of disappointment, alienation, and departure. As the stories build on one another, they create a portrait full of both nuance and grace. Agent: Jackie Kaiser, Westwood Creative Artists. (June)