It’s perhaps more laudable to simply keep heading out into the world, than always tilting to leave one’s mark on it.
Sixteen year-old Fan had no intention of sparking a movement on the day she left the SuperCorp run city of B-More for the untamed “counties” of a post-apocalyptic United States. Or, at least, we don’t think she did. She set out in search of a boy she loved. He was taken from her, secreted away like a small animal in the clutches of a bird of prey, and the ripples of his disappearance faded too quickly as the community of B-more fought to maintain normalcy, productivity, harmony. So Fan left, navigating the treacherous counties, folding open the stories of those she met, diving the murky seas of high society life in affluent charter villages. And everywhere she went, Fan catalyzed quiet revolutions. Shifts in perspective. Blossoms of hope and fire for change. As for Fan herself, she had eyes only for the road ahead, for the honor paid to lives lost and gained, for the future.
This delicately woven story illuminated Asian culture in a way I didn’t know was possible. As a Korean American, Chang-rae Lee sees the world from the perspective of a third-culture kid: one foot in Asian culture, one in Western, not fully belonging to either. It may have been this background that equipped him so well to tell the dystopian tale of Chinese workers in a post-apocalyptic US. Who else, after all, would have thought to make the narrative voice speak as “we”, the voice of a community? What really brought this novel home, was his mastery of language, of how to weave life into each page and draw the delicate strings of theme and character through to the final page.
I loved this book. It surprised and affirmed and challenged and overwhelmed me. It made me revisit my own writing, strive to raise it to a higher standard. It taught me to understand and love Asian culture and my own “third-culture kidness” more deeply.
After reading On Such a Full Sea, I’ve added every one of Chang-rae Lee’s books to my list of books to be read.
I highly recommend that you do the same.