cover image That Man in Our Lives

That Man in Our Lives

Xu Xi. C&R Press, $19 trade paper (270p) ISBN 978-1-936196-50-0

When enigmatic sinophile Gordon Ashberry disappears one evening during a flight delay in a Tokyo airport, investigators are stumped, as are Gordon’s friends, admirers, and—perhaps most confused of all—his godson Pete Haight. Xu’s (Habit of a Foreign Sky) novel enlists a large and varied cast of characters to search for the missing protagonist. The sprawling narrative moves seamlessly in and out of Hong Kong, Shanghai, New York, Taipei, and Tokyo. In keeping with her abiding interest in Sino-American relations, Xu, a U.S. citizen of Indonesian descent who was born and raised in Hong Kong, explores the ever-changing ties between China and the United States, between past and present, motherland and adopted country, and home and the unknown. With its deft shifts in point of view and its range of voices, places, and ideas, Xu’s novel can feel intentionally frenzied: the frenetic movement of the plot parallels the ungrounded movements of the investigators and Gordon’s concerned family and friends. Inspired by John Adams’s opera “Nixon in China,” Xu’s engrossing, whirlwind metafictional tale effectively demonstrates the far-reaching effects of politics and culture on the smallest, most personal aspects of our lives. (Sept.)