Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Watering Heaven by Peter Tieryas Liu

What would you do if you found out your girlfriend laid an egg every time she had sex? Who would you be if you were invited to a party in Beijing but had to make up a brand-new identity for six weeks? Peter Tieryas Liu's Watering Heaven is a travelogue of and requiem for the American dream in all its bizarre manifestations and a surreal, fantastic journey through the streets, alleys, and airports of China. Whether it's a monk who uses acupuncture needles to help him fly or a city filled with rats about to be exterminated so that the mayor can win his reelection bid, be prepared to laugh, swoon, and shudder at the answers Liu offers in this provocative debut collection.
For me, short story collections are tricky things to put together in a way that will attract most readers. I was happy to discover, however, that this collection is pretty easy to slide into. It has nice cohesiveness, so it doesn’t feel as stilted as some others do. The reader could easily recognize the themes of alienation, loneliness, and self-discovery spread throughout the stories.

At first, from the synopsis, I thought I’d be jumping into magical realism, and, in a way, I was, but it doesn’t overwhelm the reader or make things less believable. Since all the stories are grounded in human emotion, we immediately identify with that and not with some of the quirkier elements. My favorites in the collection were “Cold Fusion” and “A Wolf’s Choice.” Both of these completely captured me and made me wish they were a tad bit longer so we could get more of what’s happening, especially in “Cold Fusion.”

The writing is lovely, with many wonderful moments and sentences that will strike you. I do recommend this book. It is a refreshing read, introspective read.

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