cover image The Last Lover

The Last Lover

Can Xue, trans. from the Chinese by Annelise Finegan Wasmoen . Yale Univ., $16 trade paper (336p) ISBN 978-0-300-15332-3

The latest mind-bending novel from Xue (Vertical Motion) is about resisting the "invasions of daily life." In the Western nation of Country A, Joe, a clothing company manager, decides to quit his job to read more books. Vincent, Joe's boss, has been neglecting work and his wife, Lisa, to pursue a woman who might be an apparition. Joe's customer Reagan is losing control of himself and his farm after sleeping with one of his workers, Ida. As desire weaves these characters through a city of wet crows, a plantation overrun with snakes, a pastureland infested with wasps, and an island of invisible turtles, they ponder the ties between love, nature, and death. When these threads begin to converge, Joe and his wife, Maria, share a realization that prompts Joe to follow the story east to an ancient country. Layered in symbolism, the majority of the book is spent in an "unusually intense, approximately hallucinatory state." By threading the fable with image patterns and reoccurring onomatopoeias like "weng weng," Xue stitches themes together and succeeds in creating a unique, immersive, tale of "intersecting dreamworlds." It is a challenging work, but readers committed to experimental and innovative fiction will be snared by this mental journey. (July)