cover image Home Remedies

Home Remedies

Xuan Juliana Wang. Hogarth, $25 (256p) ISBN 978-1-9848-2274-1

Wang’s formidable imagination is on full display in this wide-ranging debut collection about modern Chinese youth. Her characters include artistic and aimless 20-year-olds eking out a living shooting subversive music videos for bands in Beijing (“Days of Being Mild”); a Chinese-American girl in Paris, who finds her life changed when she begins wearing a dead girl’s clothes (“Echo of the Moment”); and a struggling writer who receives a mysterious gadget in the mail that ages whatever she puts into it, whether it’s avocadoes, wine, or her cat (“Future Cat”). Wang plays with form as well, as in “Home Remedies for Non-Life-Threatening Ailments,” written as a catalogue of such ailments as “Inappropriate Feelings” and “Bilingual Heartache,” or “Algorithm Problem Solving for Father-Daughter Relationships,” which allows a computer science–minded Chinese immigrant father to apply his discipline’s techniques to his relationship with his second-generation Chinese-American daughter. One of the best stories in the collection is “Vaulting the Sea,” in which Taoyu, an Olympic hopeful synchronized diver, struggles with complicated feelings for his partner Hai against a greater backdrop of sacrifice, ambition, and tragedy. Though some of the stories’ narrative momentum can’t match the consistently excellent characters, nonetheless Wang proves herself a promising writer with a delightfully playful voice and an uncanny ability to evoke empathy, nostalgia, and wonder.[em] (May) [/em]