An exhilarating comic satire with the quirky energy of The Wonder Boys and Sideways.
Lyndon Song, a renowned sculptor, has fled New York City to become a Brussels sprouts farmer in the small California town of Rosarita Bay. Lyndon has a brother, Woody, an indicted financier turned movie producer, and Woody has a plan, involving a golf-course resort on Lyndon's land and an aging kung-fu diva from Hong Kong with a mean kick and a meaner drinking problem.
A dreadlocked buddy with an artificial leg, a small plot of exceptionally lush marijuana, two field biologists studying western snowy plovers, a disgraced museum curator, and Lyndon's great love, the impulsive mayor of Rosarita Bay-these are only some of the complications in Lyndon and Woody's lives over one madcap Labor Day weekend.
Hilarious and philosophical, this many-hued novel about the landscape of contemporary "multicultural" America is critically acclaimed Don Lee's best book yet.
The trick to reading Don Lee's wonderfully silly second novel (after Country of Origin and a story collection, Yellow) is to take nothing seriously, even when you should. The book concerns the eccentric sculptor-turned-brussels sprout farmer, Lyndon Song, and his estranged brother, Woody, an uptight Hollywood producer. Lyndon's refusal to sell his farmland to a golf course developer results in an unwelcome visit from his brother, who has been secretly hired by the developer. The author has corralled an array of misfits and minor characters\x97Lyndon's friend Juju, a philosophizing surfer with a prosthetic limb, and Yi Ling Ling, a has-been kung fu film star\x97to season the backdrop of the brothers' misadventures and muster up some drama and didactic spiritualism. The novel's best sections are lighthearted in their delivery, but hint at deeper substance and self-reflection. At times the author starts pulling too adamantly at readers' heartstrings, but before long he's back to slathering on the sarcasm. This novel thrives on unlikely unions, unseemly humor and happy endings while maintaining a constant examination of family and identity, in keeping with the themes of the author's previous book.
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Funny at times
Don Lee is a master of portraying human foibles and making odd, unlikable characters sympathetic. His humor is at turns subtle and laugh-out-loud funny. At least, that is the impression I got when I read Country of Origin, which unfortunately is not available on iBooks as of 2010. This book isn't nearly as moving or interesting as Country of Origin. Maybe it's because the main character Lyndon, a famous artist-turned-farmer remains elusive throughout the book. The story is most enjoyable when it's told from the perspective of Woody, Lyndon's conniving and materialistic brother. He starts out as a ridiculous caricature but becomes the most soulful and believable character in the book. I wouldn't mind seeing him again in a follow-up novel.