A Publishers Weekly Best Book of the Year
Winner of the James Michener/Copernicus Society Fellowship Prize
Lambda Literary Foundation Editor’s Choice Award
“[Chee] says volumes with just a few incendiary words.” —New York Times
“Arresting . . . profound and poetic . . . Chee’s voice is worth listening to.” —San Francisco Chronicle
“Alexander Chee gets my vote for the best new novelist I’ve read in some time. Edinburgh is moody, dramatic—and pure.” —Edmund White
Twelve-year-old Fee is a shy Korean American boy and a newly named section leader of the first sopranos in his local boys’ choir. But when Fee learns how the director treats his section leaders, he is so ashamed he says nothing of the abuse, not even when Peter, his best friend, is in line to be next. When the director is arrested, Fee tries to forgive himself for his silence. But when Peter takes his own life, Fee blames only himself. In the years that follow he slowly builds a new life, teaching near his hometown. There he meets a young student who is the picture of Peter and is forced to confront the past he believed was gone. Told with “the force of a dream and the heft of a life,”* Edinburgh marked Chee “as a major talent whose career will bear watching” (Publishers Weekly).
“A coming-of-age tale in the grand Romantic tradition, where passions run high, Cupid stalks Psyche, and love shares the dance floor with death . . . A lovely, nuanced, never predictable portrait of a creative soul in the throes of becoming.” —Washington Post
A Korean-American boy tries to deal with the legacy of abuse in Chee's stunning debut novel, which begins in Maine when young Aphias Zee joins a professional boys choir. Zee, who goes by the nickname of Fee, quickly becomes a star because of his soaring soprano voice, but the dark side of making music surfaces in the form of the conductor, a serial pedophile who slowly victimizes his young charges. The conductor manages to hide his propensities during Fee's years in the choir, but once the director is arrested the impact of his crimes begins to emerge: one of Fee's friends commits suicide by immolation and another shoots himself. Fee, meanwhile, embarks on a bizarre journey to find his identity, exploring his bisexuality while dabbling in drugs until he finally learns that his own absent father is also an imprisoned pedophile. Fee seems to settle down when he finally finds a partner, an athletic man named Bridey who was one of his school conquests, but he finds himself shaken to his core when the choir director's son turns up in his life and he is seized by an instant but deadly attraction. Chee is a gifted, poetic writer who takes big risks, from the background and sexual orientation of his protagonist to the chapters dealing with drugs, pedophilia and casual sex with grace and unflinching honesty. A counterpoint to the seamier material is Chee's exploration of Fee's spiritual side, which he delves into using animal imagery from the boy's Korean background; he also pens a wonderfully loving portrait of Fee's humble but spiritually sophisticated grandparents. This novel marks the debut of a major talent whose career will bear watching.