The author, Rattawut Lapcharoensap, Thai American and raised in Bangkok, was 26 when he wrote this great collection of short stories.
Short stories are not my first choice of reads but when I do force myself and I find a master short story writer then I can rave about it and wonder why I do not read this genre more often. It really takes a craftsman to create believable characters and tell a multi-layered story in just a few pages. Lapcharoensap is among the best of these craftsmen. The knowledge of human feelings, all genders and ages, that this young man has shown is just amazing. He delves into the complexities of relationships with a wisdom one does not expect from such a young person.
Just a confession: I did not read the last story / novella. I can deal with human suffering but not animal suffering so I skipped that and the decision was made purely on account of the title.
These stories are set in modern-day Thailand and deals with situations the Thai face, from watching a parent loose eyesight, a friend watching his friends drafted into the military while he knows his family have “paid” for him to miss it, to an expat’s grumpy grandfather who does not want to live, and certainly does not want to die, in Thailand, even refugees make an appearance here. This is not an easy read, it is substantial.
I think it is important that the Thailand stories should be told by Thai people. A Thai author brings a perspective that a farang / foreigner never could. There are many books out there written by farangs but they seem one dimensional and don’t address the heart of the Thai people. What is unique here is that this book is not a translation, it was written in English, but by a person who explores the essence of what it means to be Thai.
I have lived in several countries as a farang and I think the situations described in these stories are universal. I think everyone who reads this will be touched by them. These stories really leave you breathless and thinking about these characters for a long time.
One reviewer named Natasha (on Goodreads) has said what I felt about this collection. “The stories will leave you gasping for air, not fully grasping the weight of each of them until given a second. My emotions were wrought, shaken and put out to dry over the entire collection and I couldn’t fathom how this could be done in such a short number of pages with the characters.”
I think this book is very well written and a very good read.