Tag Archives: Literary Fiction

Review: Klara and the Sun

Klara and the Sun

Klara and the Sun
By Kazuo Ishiguro
Knopf, 9780593318171, March 2021, 320pp.

The Short of It:

Love, loneliness and loyalty are front and center in this story about friendship.

The Rest of It:

Klara spends her days at the store, rotating positions with others. Some days she is in the shop window and able to watch the busy people rushing past the shop, interacting with others and living their lives. Other days, she is moved to the back of the store. On these days, her only view is that of others in the store and she can’t help but yearn for more hours in the window. Hours where she can feel the sun’s warmth and personally experience its rejuvenating effect.

Klara is an AF, an Artificial Friend. Although there are newer models with more advanced features than what she can offer, Klara is spotted by Josie, a young girl and instantly, Josie is sure that Klara is the AF for her, but the two do not meet at that moment. The mother needs more convincing and so Klara, although hopeful to find a new home, is moved to the back of the store again.

Months pass and Klara has all but given up hope, but then there she is, Josie. Klara’s heart is bursting at the sight of her but she can’t help but notice that Josie doesn’t look well. So as Klara is taken to Josie’s home, she quickly realizes that Josie is a special girl and that not only will she be Josie’s best friend, she will also be the one to notice her rapid decline in health and be the one to do something about it.

What a story. It’s a little weird and sad and somehow manages to hit on all the things we are feeling now. Disappointment, loneliness, isolation, hope. What does it mean to be a friend to someone? How can you love a person when you are in fact a machine? What happens when your purpose conflicts with your heart?

You might think that it will be difficult to feel much while reading this story about what is essentially a robot but think twice. Remember that episode of the Twilight Zone, Sing the Body Electric? Bradbury wrote the script and it later became a story with the same name. Anyway, I felt all the emotions while watching that episode and I felt the same way here. Ishiguro presents an AF who is almost too human and I loved her. I loved her gentle observations and her willingness to sacrifice herself when needed. Truthfully, I am a little sad now as I just turned the last page not long ago. This story will sit with me for a long while.

If you are wondering about the title, it’s all explained in the story and probably represents many things but I will keep my thoughts to myself so that you can consider the meaning yourself.

Source: Review copy provided by the publisher.
Disclosure: This post contains Indiebound affiliate links.

Review: Interior Chinatown

Interior Chinatown

Interior Chinatown
By Charles Yu
Vintage, 9780307948472, November 2020, 288pp.

The Short of It:

The use of satire in this novel is very effective in highlighting Asian American stereotypes and the immigrant experience. Funny, honest but also a little sad.

The Rest of It:

Interior Chinatown won the National Book Award so it’s been getting plenty of attention and I will say that it’s much deserved. You need to know going in that it’s satire and told completely in script format. Hence the title, Interior Chinatown, which is how many scripts begin. Interior, exterior, you get the gist.

Willis Wu has one dream. He wants to be “Kung Fu Guy”. If you’ve ever watched a TV show or movie where Asian American actors are included, you know this guy. He’s the guy that shows up, cleans house with his martial arts skills and has a lot of close-ups. He’s also the guy who ends up with the pretty woman. But Willis Wu is always:

  • Asian Guy Making a Strange Face
  • Asian Delivery Driver
  • Generic Asian Man #1, #2, #3
  • Dead Asian Guy

These roles are played by Willis both in real life and in a TV show called Black and White. His desire to be “Kung Fu Guy” eclipses all things, including his family. He constantly struggles to have enough to eat and yet he’s a good guy and cares for his elderly neighbors in the run down building he lives in by offering a bit of meat to them now and then.

He shows up to work. Does what he is told but through his observant eyes he continually yearns to be “that” person, the person he is not. Plus, his own mother and father lived similar lives. At first the pretty or handsome Asian and then later Old Asian Woman or Man.

There is a very blurred line in this novel between what is happening or what we think is happening. Is it real life or a TV show? Or both? I grew up with a father who cared little about me or his family but cared a lot about Bruce Lee. This infatuation with Lee is also found in this novel. He was bigger than life. He was the one Asian to be. His fame crossed many continents and he married an American school teacher but look at the tragedy that was his life. As you know, his son Brandon also died tragically and on set to boot.

Have you seen the movie Once Upon a Time In Hollywood? There is an actor who portrays Lee at the height of his career. The scene received much criticism for perpetuating Asian stereotypes. Even after Lee’s success in Hollywood, the stereotypes continued. Few movies cast Asian American actors without including a stereotype to go with it.

Interior Chinatown, with its script format and humorous tone will keep you reading and you will chuckle here and there. Yu has a sense of humor but if you sit with it for awhile, you will also note the longing the main character feels and how difficult is is for an immigrant family to make a home for themselves in this country. The story is well-written and balanced. I highly recommend it.

Source: Purchased
Disclosure: This post contains Indiebound affiliate links.