The first book in my Kentucky authors week is Take Me Home by Brian Leung. Although not a KY native (neither am I) Leung is currently an associate professor of creative writing at the University of Louisville, and the protagonist hails from KY, so this book counts.
The book actually opens with Addie as an old woman returning to Dire for the retirement party of a different Chinese miner many years after the events that caused her to flee Wyoming. (There was a riot against the Chinese, during which she was shot–this isn’t a spoiler, you find this out at the beginning of the book.) The book is told as a series of episodes that flash backward and forward among Addie’s early months in Dire, the time immediately surrounding the riot, and the time of her return. Eventually the time points converge. Wing Lee’s point of view is introduced in some of the episodes. The narrative is somewhat disjointed, particularly starting out, until you get used to the time shifts. But maybe this disorientation, this difficulty settling in, is intentional—to give you a feel for how Addie and Wing felt, always out of place, never able to get comfortable or belong.
There are beautiful passages in the book and the characters are well developed. Given the circular way the book is written, you know the ending as you start; but even so, there are questions to be answered as the story unfolds. It becomes more interesting as you delve deeper into the lives of the main characters. I wouldn’t say that I was surprised by anything that happened. On the other hand, I didn’t feel cheated. The story unfolded exactly as it had to unfold. It’s a satisfying tale. And incredibly sad.