From the much-loved author of Who’s Irish? and The Love Wife, a world-sized novel set in a small New England town.
Hattie Kong—the spirited offspring of a descendant of Confucius and an American missionary to China—has, in her fiftieth year of living in the United States, lost both her husband and her best friend to cancer. It is an utterly devastating loss, of course, and also heartbreakingly absurd: a little, she thinks, “like having twins. She got to book the same church with the same pianist for both funerals and did think she should have gotten some sort of twofer from the crematorium.”
But now, two years later, it is time for Hattie to start over. She moves to the town of Riverlake, where she is soon joined by an immigrant Cambodian family on the run from their inner-city troubles, as well as—quite unexpectedly—by a just-retired neuroscientist ex-lover named Carter Hatch. All of them are, like Hattie, looking for a new start in a town that might once have represented the rock-solid base of American life but that is itself challenged, in 2001, by cell-phone towers and chain stores, struggling family farms and fundamentalist Christians.
What Hattie makes of this situation is at the center of a novel that asks deep and absorbing questions about religion, home, America, what neighbors are, what love is, and, in the largest sense, what “worlds” we make of the world.
Moving, humorous, compassionate, and expansive, World and Town is as rich in character as it is brilliantly evocative of its time and place. This is a truly masterful novel—enthralling, essential, and satisfying.
Jen (The Love Wife) unwinds another expansive story of identity and acceptance, deploying voices that are as haunting and revealing as they are original. Hattie Kong, 68 and full of unresolved longing for her dead husband, her best friend, and an old lover, finds a sort of purpose in the new neighbors, an immigrant Cambodian family. As she nurtures a friendship with the family s teenage daughter, Sophy, Hattie learns the family s secrets. Sophy s father, Chhung, has survived the horrors of Pol Pot, marrying Sophy s mother in a refugee camp and adopting her brother, Sarun. Sarun and Sophy founder in America; Sarun has gang ties, and Sophy becomes involved with manipulative evangelicals. Chhung, isolated and unable to cope with his children, spends his days digging a pit behind their cramped trailer until one day he implodes in an act of horrifying violence. While pondering how to help the family, Hattie discovers much about her own motivations and her place in the world as the daughter of an American missionary and a descendant of Confucius. Jen s prose is unique, dense, and enthralling, and her characters are marvels of authenticity.