A hilarious and inventive first novel tracing three generations of a death-stalked Chinese-American family in Orange County, California The Lums are cursed: ever since Grandpa Melvin was inspired to join the U.S. army after watching a Popeye movie and-as family lore has it-unleashed a "relentless rain of steel death" upon the Nazis, Lum after Lum ...
A hilarious and inventive first novel tracing three generations of a death-stalked Chinese-American family in Orange County, California The Lums are cursed: ever since Grandpa Melvin was inspired to join the U.S. army after watching a Popeye movie and-as family lore has it-unleashed a "relentless rain of steel death" upon the Nazis, Lum after Lum has been doomed to an untimely demise, be it by tainted cheeseburger or speeding ice cream truck. The most recent victim is Louis Lum's mother, at the hands of a medical student asleep at the wheel. Now Louis, a fact checker at a hot rod magazine in his early twenties, must move back home with his gangsta rap-obsessed father, Sonny, to prevent him from enacting the revenge he promises. But soon Louis's concern shifts to another wayward family member, his uncle Bo Lum, who has disappeared in Hong Kong after many years of self-imposed exile. After the annual family meeting at Grandma Esther's house, Louis decides to leave his father and go to Hong Kong and find Bo, his grandmother's favorite son. As Louis' search progresses, the tragicomic story of three generations of Lums in America is revealed through the eyes of Louis, Sonny, and Grandma Esther. A novel about the unexpected ways love and myth work to both sustain and threaten family ties, A Long Stay in a Distant Land introduces a wry and original new voice in American fiction.
I laughed, I cried, I laughed again. I want to see a movie version of it. Actually, when I finished it, I searched for what else this author has written and am anxiously waiting for his next book. Visual, real, more than a coming of age story- more like a learning to cope with the family God's given you story.
Lewis Lum is convinced that the Lum family is cursed and that Death is collecting the remaining members one by one as revenge for his grandfather cheating it. If you think that Death is chasing you, it affects some of the decisions you make- like you never eat hamburger at fast food restaurants, you always look both ways two or three times before crossing the street, and you invite Jesus into your heart three hundred and fifty times... but that's just the beginning.
A quirky family tale that made me laugh and giggle, Chieng does a great job of making a different culture accessible and comprehensible to the non-Chinese reader while at the same time portraying a loving, but somewhat manipulative family.
One of my favorite passages is when Lewis is eating out in Hong Kong and orders turnip cakes. When the golden cakes arrive at the table, he smells them carefully, examining every inch before tasting them. His grandmother had made the terrible tasting things from an old family recipe for every family gathering (which is mostly premature funerals from bizarre events) and nobody likes them. For the first time in his life, Lewis is about to discover what they are really supose to taste like. It's an awesome scene and one I wish I'd written.
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