Is Le a 14-year-old assassin in Colombia? A crabby if celebrated painter? An American woman in Tehran? Actually, the stories in this first collection are so piercingly told that it's easy to believe that the Vietnamese-born, Australian-raised author is all these things-and more. (LJ 5/1/08) Copyright 2008 Reed Business Information.
From a Colombian slum to the streets of Tehran, seven characters in seven stories struggle with very particular Swords of Damocles in Pushcart Prize winner Le's accomplished debut. In "Halflead Bay," an Australian mother begins an inevitable submission to multiple sclerosis as her teenage son prepares for the biggest soccer game of his life. The narrator of "Meeting Elise," a successful but ailing artist in Manhattan, mourns his dead lover as he anticipates meeting his daughter for the first time since she was an infant. The opening "Love and Honor and Pity and Pride and Compassion and Sacrifice" features a Vietnamese character named Nam who is struggling to complete his Iowa Writer's Workshop master's as his father comes for a tense visit, the first since an earlier estrangement shattered the family. The story's ironies--"You could totally exploit the Vietnamese thing," says a fellow student to Nam--are masterfully controlled by Le, and reverberate through the rest of this peripatetic collection. Taken together, the stories cover a vast geographic territory (Le was born in Vietnam and immigrated to Australia) and are filled with exquisitely painful and raw moments of revelation, captured in an economical style as deft as it is sure. (May) Copyright 2008 Reed Business Information.