My Year Abroad
INSTANT NATIONAL BESTSELLER
A New York Times Notable Book * Named a Best Book of the Year by Vogue, TIME, and Marie Claire
“A manifesto to happiness—the one found when you stop running from who you are.” –New York Times Book Review
“An extraordinary book, acrobatic on the level of the sentence, symphonic across its many movements—and this is a book that moves…My Year Abroad is a wild ride—a caper, a romance, a bildungsroman, and something of a satire of how to get filthy rich in rising Asia.” – Vogue
From the award-winning author of Native Speaker and On Such a Full Sea, an exuberant, provocative story about a young American life transformed by an unusual Asian adventure – and about the human capacities for pleasure, pain, and connection.
Tiller is an average American college student with a good heart but minimal aspirations. Pong Lou is a larger-than-life, wildly creative Chinese American entrepreneur who sees something intriguing in Tiller beyond his bored exterior and takes him under his wing. When Pong brings him along on a boisterous trip across Asia, Tiller is catapulted from ordinary young man to talented protégé, and pulled into a series of ever more extreme and eye-opening experiences that transform his view of the world, of Pong, and of himself.
In the breathtaking, “precise, elliptical prose” that Chang-rae Lee is known for (The New York Times), the narrative alternates between Tiller’s outlandish, mind-boggling year with Pong and the strange, riveting, emotionally complex domestic life that follows it, as Tiller processes what happened to him abroad and what it means for his future. Rich with commentary on Western attitudes, Eastern stereotypes, capitalism, global trade, mental health, parenthood, mentorship, and more, My Year Abroad is also an exploration of the surprising effects of cultural immersion—on a young American in Asia, on a Chinese man in America, and on an unlikely couple hiding out in the suburbs. Tinged at once with humor and darkness, electric with its accumulating surprises and suspense, My Year Abroad is a novel that only Chang-rae Lee could have written, and one that will be read and discussed for years to come.
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
By the end of this coming-of-age novel, we felt like we’d grown up a little bit too. Chang-rae Lee’s deeply complex story introduces us to a chatty American named Tiller, shifting back and forth in time to immerse us in the unforgettable journey he embarked on as a directionless 20-year-old and the trip’s life-changing aftereffects. When a clever local businessman takes Tiller under his wing, the young man’s journey veers from a time-out to a wild, sensuous odyssey across Asia. (And there’s a thrilling organized-crime subplot to boot.) Smart, exciting, spiritual, and thought-provoking, My Year Abroad is one of the most memorable novels we’ve read in ages.
Lee's action-packed picaresque (after On Such a Full Sea) chronicles how an ordinary New Jersey college student ended up consorting with international criminals. As the novel opens, Tiller Bardmon is living with 30-something Val and her eight-year-old son, whom he met in the Hong Kong airport after a series of adventures in Macau and Shenzhen. Val and son are both in witness protection after Val cooperated with the U.S. government to bring down her gangster husband. The story of Tiller and Val runs parallel to Tiller's recollections of the preceding year, when a day of caddying for a colorful foursome earns him an invitation from entrepreneur Pong Lou to join him on a business jaunt to Asia. The trip is not all work, though, as Tiller discovers he can surf, sing, assume difficult yoga positions, and make mad passionate love but the great adventure turns into a nightmare when Pong abandons Tiller outside Shenzhen. In energetic prose, Lee nests stories within stories, such as the moving tales of a family torn apart by Mao's Cultural Revolution and an immigrant family that reinvents itself for survival in America. The frenetic roller-coaster ride is impressively structured as the naive and sometimes reckless Tiller learns about trust and betrayal from his dealings with Pong, and gains a more mature understanding of his identity, culture, and values as his bond with Val develops. This literary whirlwind has Lee running on all cylinders.
The writing is unlike anything I’ve ever read.
I had to wait a bit too long to find out what the actual plot was at the end but there where so many delicious thoughts that it was worth it.