The Unpassing
A searing debut novel that explores community, identity, and the myth of the American dream through an immigrant family in AlaskaIn Chia-Chia Lin’s debut novel, The Unpassing, we meet a Taiwanese immigrant family of six struggling to make ends meet on the outskirts of Anchorage, Alaska. The father, hardworking but beaten down, is employed as a plumber and repairman, while the mother, a loving, strong-willed, and unpredictably emotional matriarch, holds the house together. When ten-year-old Gavin contracts meningitis at school, he falls into a deep, nearly fatal coma. He wakes up a week later to learn that his little sister Ruby was infected, too. She did not survive.Routine takes over for the grieving family: the siblings care for each other as they befriend a neighboring family and explore the woods; distance grows between the parents as they deal with their loss separately. But things spiral when the father, increasingly guilt ridden after Ruby’s death, is sued for not properly installing a septic tank, which results in grave harm to a little boy. In the ensuing chaos, what really happened to Ruby finally emerges.With flowing prose that evokes the terrifying beauty of the Alaskan wilderness, Lin explores the fallout after the loss of a child and the way in which a family is forced to grieve in a place that doesn’t yet feel like home. Emotionally raw and subtly suspenseful, The Unpassing is a deeply felt family saga that dismisses the American dream for a harsher, but ultimately more profound, reality.

The Unpassing Details

TitleThe Unpassing
Author
ReleaseMay 7th, 2019
PublisherFarrar, Straus and Giroux
ISBN-139780374279363
Rating
GenreFiction, The United States Of America, Cultural, Asia, Literary Fiction, Contemporary, Family, Adult, Historical, Historical Fiction, Literature, Asian Literature, Novels

The Unpassing Review

  • Lou
    January 1, 1970
    The Unpassing is an accomplished, character-driven drama following the trials and tribulations of a Taiwanese-American immigrant family residing in 1980s Anchorage, Alaska. Told from the perspective of young Gavin, the ten-year-old son, this gives a very innocent, original point of view that we are not used to seeing in books, so that was most refreshing. The characters are beautifully rendered and come live on the page; they almost feel real with all of their flaws. The vast expansive landscape The Unpassing is an accomplished, character-driven drama following the trials and tribulations of a Taiwanese-American immigrant family residing in 1980s Anchorage, Alaska. Told from the perspective of young Gavin, the ten-year-old son, this gives a very innocent, original point of view that we are not used to seeing in books, so that was most refreshing. The characters are beautifully rendered and come live on the page; they almost feel real with all of their flaws. The vast expansive landscape of Alaska brings an underlying tension to the entire of the narrative. It's poignant, moving and explores family, grief, loss, love, identity and the sense of belonging we all crave.Lin writes in such a profound manner that touches you and has a subtle emotive authenticity to it. There is often an underrated beauty to simple tales such as these that just works; there's no airs and graces just the stripped back plot exploring the heartbreak and pain of a horrific incident on a family who are rightly devastated. Haunting, evocative and so very believable, this is a debut worth reading and an author worth watching. If you enjoy thought-provoking, slow burn novels with subtle nuances and wonderfully lyrical prose then this is well worth your time. Many thanks to Farrar, Straus & Giroux for an ARC.
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  • Jonathan
    January 1, 1970
    “ It was a kind of violence, what my father had done. He had brought us to a place we didn’t belong, and taken us from a place we did. Now we yearned for all places and found peace in none”...“The Unpassing by Chia-Chia Lin is a slow burn of a novel that engulfs you more in the atmospheric landscape and the characters lives more so than inviting you into the plot. This book is extremely character drive, its Knausgaard esque with its bold and heavily detailed description of the Alaskan wilderness “ It was a kind of violence, what my father had done. He had brought us to a place we didn’t belong, and taken us from a place we did. Now we yearned for all places and found peace in none”...“The Unpassing by Chia-Chia Lin is a slow burn of a novel that engulfs you more in the atmospheric landscape and the characters lives more so than inviting you into the plot. This book is extremely character drive, its Knausgaard esque with its bold and heavily detailed description of the Alaskan wilderness that surrounds the people within. The five main characters are strongly built throughout the pages with such desire that you almost forget that there really isn’t a huge strong plot, it takes a backseat in this one, and for me that was absolutely perfect and refreshing but for some I can see they might not enjoy that...The Unpassing takes place in the 80’s and centers around a Taiwanese immigrant family of six which very quickly is reduced to five when the narrator, ten year old Gavin, contracts meningitis from an outbreak at school. He wakes a week later from a coma to find out he is alright but his youngest sister Ruby also contracted the disease from him and didn’t survive. The entirety of the novel follows the mother and father whom come from different asian countries and never feel at home in America, their struggles being in a foreign land and also the strain on their marriage and happiness. Then there is Gavin and his older sister Pei-Pei and his younger brother Natty, none of them are super close as most siblings that age aren’t but they also aren’t exactly rivals. They too feel the weight of not belonging in a country that is not their own. The novel follows the entire family and how they each react and live after the death of the youngest, navigating through the beautiful canyons of the wilderness and the ugly despair within the very depths of their souls this book hit me harder the farther into it I got. Halfway through I had it being a three star novel but pressed on and was rewarded with a stunning five star depiction of a beautiful story and stunning surprise behind Ruby’s death.
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  • Mary
    January 1, 1970
    10-year-old Gavin comes home from school feeling sick. Days or perhaps weeks later, he wakes up to discover that his youngest sibling, Ruby, has contracted his illness (which turns out to be meningitis) and has died. So begins The Unpassing, which explores in shattering detail the toll this tragedy takes on a family of Taiwanese immigrants living in Alaska in the 1980s in search of a better life. It’s clear early on that there were strains in the family before Ruby’s death—Gavin’s father’s plumb 10-year-old Gavin comes home from school feeling sick. Days or perhaps weeks later, he wakes up to discover that his youngest sibling, Ruby, has contracted his illness (which turns out to be meningitis) and has died. So begins The Unpassing, which explores in shattering detail the toll this tragedy takes on a family of Taiwanese immigrants living in Alaska in the 1980s in search of a better life. It’s clear early on that there were strains in the family before Ruby’s death—Gavin’s father’s plumbing business is not doing well and his mother longs to go back to her fishing village in Taiwan where her mother and ailing father still live. Layered over these tensions, however, are blame for Ruby’s death, which pits the parents against each other, while narrator Gavin struggles silently with his guilt at bringing the sickness home with him, his older sister Pei Pei tries to move on and regain some semblance of normalcy, and his younger brother Natty searches in vain for Ruby, who he’s been told is merely “lost.” This is a bleak book—things go from bad to worse and are framed by tragedies in the world at large (the Challenger explosion, the Chernobyl nuclear accident, the Exxon Valdez disaster)—but the writing is always good and often gorgeous, as when Gavin describes his sleepless nights: “As I sank away from consciousness, the overhead glare kept me swaying in the shallowest layer of sleep, a net of two-second dreams.” And author Chia-Chia Lin beautifully and heartbreakingly wrestles with the idea of “home” and what that means to people who don’t really feel they belong anywhere. Ruby’s death is the straw that collapses the fragile idea of home the family has built in Alaska, but Lin seems to suggest that even had she lived, a real sense of home would still prove elusive. “It was a kind of violence, what my father had done,” Gavin says. “He had brought us to a place we didn’t belong, and taken us from a place we did. Now we yearned for all places and found peace in none.” If you like beautiful writing and don’t mind your family sagas on the dark side, The Unpassing is an unflinching look at what it means to be an immigrant and to try to make a home and hold a family together in a strange world. Recommended.Many thanks to NetGalley and Farrar, Straus and Giroux for providing me with an ARC of this title in exchange for my honest review.
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  • Beth M.
    January 1, 1970
    This debut novel is the story of an immigrant family from Taiwan living in Alaska. Focused on the aftermath of the unexpected death of the youngest daughter, this is a tale that meditates on themes of life and the weight of loss, identity and finding one’s “place,” family and culture.Lin’s prose is spare, beautiful, and haunting. Losing a child is the worst pain that I can imagine and she convincingly weaves a depth of emotion throughout each chapter. The lush landscape of the Alaskan wilderness This debut novel is the story of an immigrant family from Taiwan living in Alaska. Focused on the aftermath of the unexpected death of the youngest daughter, this is a tale that meditates on themes of life and the weight of loss, identity and finding one’s “place,” family and culture.Lin’s prose is spare, beautiful, and haunting. Losing a child is the worst pain that I can imagine and she convincingly weaves a depth of emotion throughout each chapter. The lush landscape of the Alaskan wilderness also works as a sharp contrast to the emptiness that the family feels. This novel drew to mind for me We Were the Mulvaneys by Joyce Carol Oates, as both examine the everyday reality and aftermath of a horrific event, the effects on a family, and how it irreparably changes them. The story feels so real, narrating every-day moments, and this simplicity causes the events to carry an added weight.This isn’t a book for everyone, in my opinion. It is strongly character-driven and if you are looking for a story with a quick plot, you will not find it here. However, I was immersed in the pain of this family from the start and my heart ached for them through the entire novel. There may also be a temptation to speed through this book, as it is, on the surface, an easy read. I strongly recommend against this. Take your time, absorb the simple and beautiful language, give yourself ample opportunity to feel the underlying emotion. The writing is worth it.Sincere thanks to NetGalley and FSG Books for the free e-arc in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts and opinions expressed here are mine. The Unpassing will be released on May 7th.
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  • Basma
    January 1, 1970
    (unfinished) Ah, there's nothing I hate more than being excited about a book to find out that I didn't enjoy it enough and have put it aside. I feel bad for giving bad reviews especially for a debut novel but this wasn't the book for me.This is a story about a Taiwanese family living in Alaska. It looks at family and sibling relationships and how that changes when a horrible incident happens and the entire family is grieving. I am sure more happens but I haven't finished the book thus can't give (unfinished) Ah, there's nothing I hate more than being excited about a book to find out that I didn't enjoy it enough and have put it aside. I feel bad for giving bad reviews especially for a debut novel but this wasn't the book for me.This is a story about a Taiwanese family living in Alaska. It looks at family and sibling relationships and how that changes when a horrible incident happens and the entire family is grieving. I am sure more happens but I haven't finished the book thus can't give a full description. I think the blurb written for this book is excellent, even now when I go back to read it I feel like I want to pick up the book again and see what happens next especially what happens with Ruby but whenever I do I feel like closing it.My issue with not being able to continue with it is I didn't jam very well with the writing style or the way the communication between the characters was written. The story ticks all the boxes for me but sadly the writing style didn't. I can see how some people might enjoy it so I don't recommend basing your reading of this book on my review.[Around the world pick for Taiwan.](I received a free e-book copy of this title from NetGalley and the publisher in exchange for an honest review.)
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  • Jake
    January 1, 1970
    This is the story of a Taiwanese immigrant family in Alaska in the 1980s looking for the good old American dream. Things don't work out as planned, as illness and death and lawsuits lead to poverty and disintegration of family. The writing is good with vibrant characters, with the exception of the narrator who I didn't really get to know and had to remind myself that he was a boy and not a girl once or twice. It felt like the lesson of the book came too late and was a bit forced. Overall a good This is the story of a Taiwanese immigrant family in Alaska in the 1980s looking for the good old American dream. Things don't work out as planned, as illness and death and lawsuits lead to poverty and disintegration of family. The writing is good with vibrant characters, with the exception of the narrator who I didn't really get to know and had to remind myself that he was a boy and not a girl once or twice. It felt like the lesson of the book came too late and was a bit forced. Overall a good book with some minor flaws. Thanks to goodreads and the publisher for the free copy.
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  • Karen Ng
    January 1, 1970
    It's hard to write a review for this book. I read it in small doses so not to be overwhelmed with emotions. Yes, the writing is powerful, the prose unique, observations keen. Definitely very masterful for a debut.I'm going to try a bullet list and will add to it if I reread the book later on.- This is a book about grief. - it is not plot driven but character based.- The narrator is a boy, Gavin, who loves science and has lots of questions about everything. He's precoccious. His mind wanders a lo It's hard to write a review for this book. I read it in small doses so not to be overwhelmed with emotions. Yes, the writing is powerful, the prose unique, observations keen. Definitely very masterful for a debut.I'm going to try a bullet list and will add to it if I reread the book later on.- This is a book about grief. - it is not plot driven but character based.- The narrator is a boy, Gavin, who loves science and has lots of questions about everything. He's precoccious. His mind wanders a lot, so the readers must put two plus two together as we read along.- He shares an interest of space/ astronomy with his Dad.- He just lost his younger sister, Ruby, to meningitis. Gavin thinks it's his fault by bringing the germ home from school. Although his parents never said it outright, they implied it.The family is immigrated from Taiwan, but settled down in Alaska due to the Dad's job and permanent fund pay out by head.- Dad has an advanced degree in science, but works as a plumber and well driller.- Mom is the one taking care of the kids and home. She feels underappreciated and misses her family in Taiwan. She might be a bit depressed from bits and pieces we read in the story . She does not connect to her husband at all or even looks down on or is angry with him. She blames him for everything in their life- The parents do not talk to each other, yet unload their problems / anger on the kids.- Gavin has an older sister, Pei Pei/ Paige, a teen, and also a younger brother, Natty, who is only a year older than and was close to Ruby, who died.- Each member of the family grieves in his/ her own sad way, but due to the parents' marital problems and Asian Culture that teaches us to keep things inside, the kids are struggling on their own with no one to turn to, or even ask questions during this critical time in their life.- background info: Corporal punishment is fairly common and acceptable in Chinese culture up to the parents' generation. They appear to be first generation Americans, while Gavin and his siblings, second.- The following topics were all mentioned in the book:The Challenger Space Shuttle, Beluga Whales, Alaskan nature/ resources, Taiwan/ Formosa, racism, identity problems of immigrants, sibling rivalry, school bullying, Chinese culture, dynamics of a marriage under stress and impact on kids.To wrap it up. I'm very impressed with the young author's skill, as well as her vast knowledge about different subjects. She jumped from one topic to another effortlessly... yet still wrapped me tightly around her fingers with her mastery in story telling. Thanks to Macmillan for the ARC.
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  • Audrey
    January 1, 1970
    This review is based on an ARC of The Unpassing which I received courtesy of NetGalley and the publisher (Farrar, Straus, and Giroux). Three star reviews are always so hard to start. I didn't love The Unpassing, but I can concede that it was a well written and fairly entertaining novel. Maybe I wasn't enraptured the whole time, but I was never annoyed at this novel, which is always a good thing. I can say that I really liked the characters and how incredibly well-developed and believable they ar This review is based on an ARC of The Unpassing which I received courtesy of NetGalley and the publisher (Farrar, Straus, and Giroux). Three star reviews are always so hard to start. I didn't love The Unpassing, but I can concede that it was a well written and fairly entertaining novel. Maybe I wasn't enraptured the whole time, but I was never annoyed at this novel, which is always a good thing. I can say that I really liked the characters and how incredibly well-developed and believable they are, especially in the showing rather than the telling. Serious props to Chia-Chia Lin on this level of talent and voice in a debut novel. On the downside, I felt that the ending was abrupt and maybe not as well thought out as the bulk of the story. Also, the climax was set (view spoiler)[during a storm. (hide spoiler)] How cliché! Overall I enjoyed this book. It presented a new perspective that I don't typically see in the books that I read, which I loved, honestly. If you like coming-of-age, family novels, or this new-age kind of general fiction, I definitely recommend The Unpassing!Popsugar 2019 Reading Challenge: a debut novel50 Books/50 States: Alaska
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  • Lauren Archer
    January 1, 1970
    Thank you NetGalley and Farrar, Straus and Giroux for an Advanced Reader's Copy of this book. This book has a very auspicious start. In the very first scene of this book kind of tells the whole story. Gavin and his sibling are in their den in their home when their mom comes in carrying a bowl of grapes and she drops to the ground and the grapes fall all over. She does not move and her kids are stunned and do nothing. A few minutes later the mom gets up and she tells them they failed the test by Thank you NetGalley and Farrar, Straus and Giroux for an Advanced Reader's Copy of this book. This book has a very auspicious start. In the very first scene of this book kind of tells the whole story. Gavin and his sibling are in their den in their home when their mom comes in carrying a bowl of grapes and she drops to the ground and the grapes fall all over. She does not move and her kids are stunned and do nothing. A few minutes later the mom gets up and she tells them they failed the test by not calling for an ambulance. I knew this book was going to be a wild ride after that. This is about an immigrant family from Korea leaving in Alaska.during the 80's. The Challenger incident is at the forefront of this book along with Chernobyl incident. The book is narrated by Gavin the oldest son of the this family of son. He takes the blame or maybe I should say feels he is too blame of some of things that happens. He has the weight of life on his shoulders. This is a very moving family story. At first I felt this was a story of vignettes, but the end this culminated into a lovely story that tied everything together. Wonderful book.
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  • Roberta
    January 1, 1970
    It's been a while since I read a book without a basic plot, though the book was well written as to the words and dialogue used. It was an ARC edition & came across to me as more of a family diary.A family from Taiwan moves to Anchorage, Alaska - father, mother, & their 4 children. One of the children (Ruby) dies from meningitis, though her brother who also contracted it managed to survive. This is the story of the day-to-day events which the family had to deal with in their new environme It's been a while since I read a book without a basic plot, though the book was well written as to the words and dialogue used. It was an ARC edition & came across to me as more of a family diary.A family from Taiwan moves to Anchorage, Alaska - father, mother, & their 4 children. One of the children (Ruby) dies from meningitis, though her brother who also contracted it managed to survive. This is the story of the day-to-day events which the family had to deal with in their new environment. Though the father repairs or replaces septic tanks, he comes across to the reader as mentally unstable and partially responsible for Ruby's death. The mother is the one who holds the family together. The family is evicted from their home, whereupon the father packs up some household belongings in his truck and tells the children they are going on a vacation. They eventually return to the home days later to find they are locked out. The father breaks in & finds that the items they left behind are all gone, but they remain there anyway.The best part of this family diary is when one of the children is lost in the woods and the steps the family has to take to find the child, even though they are not all in agreement with it. The story has a reader-friendly ending & not one that I saw coming.
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  • Kasa Cotugno
    January 1, 1970
    Beautifully written if spare and grim, this account of a family of Taiwanese immigrants attempting to make a life in Alaska will remain in memory. As it is, memory is the central theme here, as well as search for home: “It was a kind of violence, what my father had done. He had brought us to a place we didn’t belong, and taken us from a place we did. Now we yearned for all places and found peace in none.” Told from the point of view of Gavin who is remembering the events of 1986 when he was 10. Beautifully written if spare and grim, this account of a family of Taiwanese immigrants attempting to make a life in Alaska will remain in memory. As it is, memory is the central theme here, as well as search for home: “It was a kind of violence, what my father had done. He had brought us to a place we didn’t belong, and taken us from a place we did. Now we yearned for all places and found peace in none.” Told from the point of view of Gavin who is remembering the events of 1986 when he was 10. He looks back on that time to make sense of what happened, his contracting meningitis, and his younger sister's succumbing to the disease and the effect that had on the grieving family. Blaming himself for her illness, it is only later he learns the truth, which doesn't soften the memory. Life in rural Alaska is brutally brought to life, and my only objection was to the resolution which was somehow hurried and felt a little unfinished.
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  • ❄️Nani❄️
    January 1, 1970
    This was one of my anticipated reads. I couldn’t have been more dissatisfied. I could not, for the life of me, form any connection with the characters. I just felt nothing. Complete indifference.
  • Ilana
    January 1, 1970
    Remarkable - on the sentence level, on the emotional level, the way a quiet dread pervades throughout without being melodramatic or overwrought. There is so much that feels true here, including the alienation and detachment of grief (of griefs, many kinds - for a child, for a home, for a family, for safety, for belonging).
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  • Cici Reads
    January 1, 1970
    In late summer or early fall, when the strung-out sun began to set again we lay out at night and offered ourselves to the hungry sky. As someone who loves character exploration and lyrical prose, I fell in love with this book. I definitely understand how some people don't really like it, because it is extremely heavy on the characters over the plot, to the point where there seemed to be little to no plot, but I personally really enjoy strong character focus, and I think it was done really well In late summer or early fall, when the strung-out sun began to set again we lay out at night and offered ourselves to the hungry sky. As someone who loves character exploration and lyrical prose, I fell in love with this book. I definitely understand how some people don't really like it, because it is extremely heavy on the characters over the plot, to the point where there seemed to be little to no plot, but I personally really enjoy strong character focus, and I think it was done really well here. Each member of the family felt so real to me, and even though I had a hard time really liking any of them, I was able to sympathize with each of them, which I think is the mark of a great writer. The family dynamic also really spoke to me as someone of Asian-American descent—obviously my family isn't the same as this one, but there were certain aspects of the parental figures and the family's relationship with their Asian heritage overall that really resonated with me. I can also see how someone wouldn't really like the writing style—it's full of imagery and figurative language, and there's a certain feeling of emptiness to the dialogue and action, and certainly an unresolved quality to the whole thing. However, I think this writing style was perfect for me personally and created a truly beautiful work of literature. The unfinished/empty quality definitely felt intentional and fit the setting and plot (what little of it there was) perfectly.The one thing I didn't like so much was the ending, because the jump in time felt really abrupt compared to the very slow burn throughout the rest of the book. If that chapter had just been titled epilogue, I would've had no issue with this book whatsoever.4.5/5 stars, rounded up. I don't think this book is for everyone, but I would definitely recommend giving it a chance if you are into in-depth character exploration and imagery-heavy writing. I'll definitely be keeping an eye on Chia-Chia Lin after this awesome debut!I received an uncorrected proof of this book in a Goodreads giveaway.
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  • Glorialaihuang
    January 1, 1970
    This is one of those books that you can't stop thinking about weeks later. It's not just that the writing is so beautiful or that the characters are so compelling, but everything about the book comes to life - the setting (a visceral and wild Alaska), the characters (a family undergoing unthinkable tragedies), the fear and hope that you end up sharing with the narrator and his siblings. Even though the characters themselves deal with their trauma privately, the author teases out such powerful th This is one of those books that you can't stop thinking about weeks later. It's not just that the writing is so beautiful or that the characters are so compelling, but everything about the book comes to life - the setting (a visceral and wild Alaska), the characters (a family undergoing unthinkable tragedies), the fear and hope that you end up sharing with the narrator and his siblings. Even though the characters themselves deal with their trauma privately, the author teases out such powerful thoughts and reactions from them that the book is almost haunting in its vivid portrayal of grief. I was also impressed and thrilled at how authentic and genuine the voices of these POC characters were, particularly the immigrant parents. There's such a dearth of these kinds of diversity of voices, and I'm so glad The Unpassing stepped up to help fill it in such a memorable way.
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  • Anne
    January 1, 1970
    This is the most beautiful book I've read in years. I felt pulled in right away – both by the intimacy of the young boy's narration and also by the very high stakes for the family. I read it in just a few sittings. The sibling relationships felt nuanced and real to me, and even though the family's losses and struggles are heartbreaking, there were a lot of funny moments – wry observations that captured a child's point of view more perfectly than any other book I can think of right now... I also This is the most beautiful book I've read in years. I felt pulled in right away – both by the intimacy of the young boy's narration and also by the very high stakes for the family. I read it in just a few sittings. The sibling relationships felt nuanced and real to me, and even though the family's losses and struggles are heartbreaking, there were a lot of funny moments – wry observations that captured a child's point of view more perfectly than any other book I can think of right now... I also loved the beauty in the description of the Alaskan landscape and how it starkly illuminated the family's loneliness. I can't believe this is Chia-Chia Lin's first novel, and I'm eagerly anticipating whatever she writes next.
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  • Abigail Higgins
    January 1, 1970
    Written in lyrical prose, this debut novel by Chia-Chia Lin describes the process of grieving and the struggle for survival in a Taiwanese immigrant family in Alaska. Landscape and emotion reflect each other: wild and desolated, with unexplored depth. The book is of very high literary quality, with terse, functional prose. Although it explores emotion, The Unpassing does not evoke it to a significant extent, due to its somewhat pensive tone and slow plot development. But, it is nonetheless a tho Written in lyrical prose, this debut novel by Chia-Chia Lin describes the process of grieving and the struggle for survival in a Taiwanese immigrant family in Alaska. Landscape and emotion reflect each other: wild and desolated, with unexplored depth. The book is of very high literary quality, with terse, functional prose. Although it explores emotion, The Unpassing does not evoke it to a significant extent, due to its somewhat pensive tone and slow plot development. But, it is nonetheless a thought-provoking and stirring read.The plot of The Unpassing is meandering, told from the perspective of a child. Gavin, the second-oldest among his siblings, narrates the trauma that his siblings and parents deal with after the death of his youngest sister, Ruby, from meningitis. His own guilt burdens him, since he survived while Ruby did not. His parents become more and more estranged from each other, seeking solace in the Alaskan wilderness instead of the companionship of the other. Gavin’s older sister, Pei-Pei, tries to blend in with American life outside of their disheveled home life, while his younger brother, Natty, struggles to accept his playmate’s absence. For most of the novel, actual events are not primary features. Rather, Lin writes about the children’s wanderings in the forest and about their attempts to make friends and find connection. Only in the last few chapters do things begin to actually change in the family’s circumstances, and the stagnation of their grief seem to lift.The measured pace of the plot makes The Unpassing a somewhat slow read. It is a book to be enjoyed when in a thoughtful mood. Things happen gradually, and the fact that the narrator is around ten years old means that it is at times veiled what conflicts exactly are transpiring between the adult members of the community. But, this does focus the book more closely on the emotions of the children, and the ways in which the turmoil that happens on the adult level filters down to the adolescents. The children’s emotions are no less complicated than their elders, and because they are unused to grief, they experience it intensely in their different ways. The book may lack action, but the emotional ebb and flow of Gavin’s memories helps to supplement this needed dynamism.The prose in Chia-Chia Lin’s novel is lovely. Her descriptions of the bleak but enchanting wilderness of the Alaskan winters, the thin stretching of days in the summer, and the lurking dangers in the familiar forest highlight Gavin’s sense of strangeness and un-belonging. The setting is as changeable and vast as the effects of absence of the youngest member of his family. Lin’s style and her understanding of how deep childhood trauma can run and spread through a person’s life are the highlights of the book. Again, it is not a fast read, and it is not a particularly exciting one, but it is well-suited to someone looking to reflect on grief, on identity, and on belonging. Environmentally and emotionally displaced, the characters in The Unpassing offer insight into different expressions of sorrow and into the ways that family can tether or alienate a person in need of community.{See more reviews at https://witnessofthedawn.wordpress.co...}
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  • Truce
    January 1, 1970
    I’m prone to giving books high marks if I actually manage to finish them. This one was weird — it was easy to keep turning the pages, but I was unable to put it down because I wanted more, and I kept hoping I’d find it on the next page. I don’t know if it’s just that this book comes highly recommended by all the blogs that maybe I just expected too much.The premise was compelling to me: a Taiwanese immigrant family living in poverty in 1980’s Alaska, and dealing with the loss of the youngest chi I’m prone to giving books high marks if I actually manage to finish them. This one was weird — it was easy to keep turning the pages, but I was unable to put it down because I wanted more, and I kept hoping I’d find it on the next page. I don’t know if it’s just that this book comes highly recommended by all the blogs that maybe I just expected too much.The premise was compelling to me: a Taiwanese immigrant family living in poverty in 1980’s Alaska, and dealing with the loss of the youngest child. In the first chapter, ten year old Gavin comes home from school with meningitis, and he wakes up a week later to find out that his younger sister also contracted meningitis but didn’t survive. The book details the slow unraveling of this family, and it’s almost too slow.The characters — especially the parents — often acted in ways I didn’t understand, and while this could’ve easily been explained as a side effect of grief, the prose was too spare and vague and created too much distance between me and the characters to get me there. The pacing was weird in parts, and it made the climax frustrating to read through. There’s a really important thread here, though. (And this might be a spoiler.) The father is ambivalent about Taiwan and seems wholly uninterested in going back to visit, despite both being unable to let go of (or unable to stop lying about) his accomplishments back in his homeland and also being so afraid of America that he refuses to ask for help from others. This is such an important part of the Asian male immigrant experience. However, we don’t really get the gravity of this until the final third of the book. This might have just been a matter of taste, but I needed more from this book.
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  • Niklas Pivic
    January 1, 1970
    This is a story of alienation, poverty, family, Alaska, the 1980s, and friendship. It is also about how coincidence and life make for incalculable happiness and sorrow.Mainly, this book reads as poetry stitched together to make a novel. I don't mean this in any other way than very good; this book contains prose that glows throughout. This book has made Chia-Chia Lin turn up in my radar for things to come.The rhythm of the prose is what struck me first, but the story arc is also wondrous yet simp This is a story of alienation, poverty, family, Alaska, the 1980s, and friendship. It is also about how coincidence and life make for incalculable happiness and sorrow.Mainly, this book reads as poetry stitched together to make a novel. I don't mean this in any other way than very good; this book contains prose that glows throughout. This book has made Chia-Chia Lin turn up in my radar for things to come.The rhythm of the prose is what struck me first, but the story arc is also wondrous yet simple; those two bits combined make me want to go on and on with the text.Above Turnagain Arm, along a dirt path that followed the bluffs, where sour blueberries grew low to the ground, there was a spot of earth that had fallen away. You could inch up close and look way down the scoured face of the cliff, and see a small, dark, rocky cove, which had surely never been touched by a human being. It was refilled and refilled and refilled by the unknowable ocean.The edge of the woods flamed magenta as the last flowers on the tips of the fireweeds bloomed. School was just around the corner. Reagan announced that a replacement shuttle for the Challenger was in the works. My father must have been happy, but I hardly saw him.The only critique I have is that the book felt a bit gone circa two thirds into it; it felt like its time had come earlier than the book did. I must confess that I read an uncorrected galley copy, so changes may have been made since.Altogether, I recommend reading this to all who want to read a piece of fiction that feels real.
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  • Emily Yang
    January 1, 1970
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4q8jz...often melodramatic, rarely convincing. has the texture/feeling of experience (less a meander than a big static blur), but experience on its own is not necessarily worth writing about, even one as self-consciously fine-grained as Gavin's (at one point he literally says "I was the one who noticed things"). maybe I would have appreciated this novel's degree of detail and the plot structure more if it were a little less precious — it's a style she shares with https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4q8jz...often melodramatic, rarely convincing. has the texture/feeling of experience (less a meander than a big static blur), but experience on its own is not necessarily worth writing about, even one as self-consciously fine-grained as Gavin's (at one point he literally says "I was the one who noticed things"). maybe I would have appreciated this novel's degree of detail and the plot structure more if it were a little less precious — it's a style she shares with Han Kang, in that the end goal seems to be to turn the entire world into a wound on an unrelated note, I feel as though this particular character dynamic/trope (the overbearing-to-abusive asian mother and refusing, sickly child), is essentially designed for white consumption. it's "true" enough, but the novel's particular style of presenting this, the incessant repetition of episodes of abuse without reconciliation told from a close first person, felt gratuitous on top of being simply uninteresting. I want to know who gets readerly gratification from the fulfillment of this dynamic presented in *this* way, and my guess is that it's not people who actually lived through stuff like this. maybe I'm just not lin's intended audience of mainstream american literary fiction readers, for whom trauma and especially racialized trauma is an aesthetic delicacy; instead I got this gross feeling that I was stumbling on something I wasn't supposed to see, the dull shock of encountering something that is *about* me but isn't *for* me
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  • Sarah
    January 1, 1970
    “Because we weren’t so many, we were so few.”This is the story of a Taiwanese immigrant family living in Alaska in the 1980s, told from the perspective of 10-year-old Gavin. He lives with his parents, older sister Pei-Pei, and younger siblings Natty and Ruby. The book opens with him contracting meningitis from an outbreak at his school; while he survives, his sister Ruby gets it too and dies. The unraveling that happens in the aftermath of her death is the scaffolding of this story.First of all, “Because we weren’t so many, we were so few.”This is the story of a Taiwanese immigrant family living in Alaska in the 1980s, told from the perspective of 10-year-old Gavin. He lives with his parents, older sister Pei-Pei, and younger siblings Natty and Ruby. The book opens with him contracting meningitis from an outbreak at his school; while he survives, his sister Ruby gets it too and dies. The unraveling that happens in the aftermath of her death is the scaffolding of this story.First of all, the writing in this book is right up my alley- poetic and lyrical, with some dazzling descriptions of landscape. Lin also does that magical thing where the story seems muted and quiet, even slow, and then completely wrenches the reader’s heart by making them realize they actually fell all the way in love with the characters. That’s how I felt anyway. The family at the center of the story must deal with some extremely heavy burdens, including the loss of a child, unemployment and poverty, and sharply strained relationships with each other. But the love that holds them together is palpable, and the neighbor family that the children befriend are really compelling characters too. I really loved this book and would recommend it to anyone who likes beautiful language, a setting that’s its own character, stories about family and coming of age, own voices books, and ensemble casts with characters you’ll get invested in.
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  • Poori
    January 1, 1970
    this is not a happy book. and the characters have faults. but after i finished the book i felt like i got something. a complicated, non-glamorized view into one family's life and how things can turn out. it doesn't pass judgement on the characters but there is plenty of judgement left for the reader to think about. it made me think about how there is a path dependence to life and about the hardships and consequences of bad decisions. the writing is beautiful and makes the story come alive. there this is not a happy book. and the characters have faults. but after i finished the book i felt like i got something. a complicated, non-glamorized view into one family's life and how things can turn out. it doesn't pass judgement on the characters but there is plenty of judgement left for the reader to think about. it made me think about how there is a path dependence to life and about the hardships and consequences of bad decisions. the writing is beautiful and makes the story come alive. there are many small gems throughout the story that capture details of their life. Contrary to some other reviewers, I thought the ending was very good. The story sort of backed away and left me thinking about the book for little while. I generally don't reread books but I will be revisiting this one again.
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  • Melissa Schwartz
    January 1, 1970
    This was an uncorrected proof I received as a giveaway. I really think it can use more work. A lot of important events in the book were vague and anticlimactic, and I needed to re-read them more than once. I also wish I the writing helped me better understand the characters as people; expecially the father and Natty - they just really made little sense to me. It might have been beneficial to have Pei Pei be the narrator at some points too, switching off with Gavin. I also think too little detail This was an uncorrected proof I received as a giveaway. I really think it can use more work. A lot of important events in the book were vague and anticlimactic, and I needed to re-read them more than once. I also wish I the writing helped me better understand the characters as people; expecially the father and Natty - they just really made little sense to me. It might have been beneficial to have Pei Pei be the narrator at some points too, switching off with Gavin. I also think too little detail was given about what happened to Ruby and Gavin in the beginning. I was intrigued throughout though.
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  • Alissa
    January 1, 1970
    Thank you to Goodreads and Farrar, Straus, and Giroux for the free ARC in exchange for a review! The Unpassing by Chia-Chia Lin is the story of a Taiwanese family living in Alaska and grappling with the loss of a child. The story touches on guilt, survival, and blame. I enjoyed the story, but it did feel distanced for me. Until the end, I didn't truly feel submerged in the story. It is not an easy story to read, and a lot of it is difficult to get through simply because of the gloomy nature of t Thank you to Goodreads and Farrar, Straus, and Giroux for the free ARC in exchange for a review! The Unpassing by Chia-Chia Lin is the story of a Taiwanese family living in Alaska and grappling with the loss of a child. The story touches on guilt, survival, and blame. I enjoyed the story, but it did feel distanced for me. Until the end, I didn't truly feel submerged in the story. It is not an easy story to read, and a lot of it is difficult to get through simply because of the gloomy nature of the story, which extends beyond the weather. The ending picks up a bit more steam than the rest of the book and is more compelling than the middle, but it's still worth a read!
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  • Kylene
    January 1, 1970
    For me, as a mother, The Unpassing was a difficult read. The children in this novel suffer so much, and because the story is from the point of view of Gavin, a ten year-old boy, it's hard to say whether the parents are even aware of the extent of their children's sufferings. Despite --or perhaps because of-- all the emotions this book dredged up, I really enjoyed The Unpassing. I thought Gavin's voice was very genuine and realistic, and the setting was very alive as well.
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  • Threasa
    January 1, 1970
    I won this book on Goodreads. Maybe this book wasn't for me or I just didn't understand what the author was trying to say. The story was good, but sad also. An immigrant Taiwanese family moves to Alaska hoping for the American dream. What happens is far from a dream. The book shows how the family copes with love, loss, poverty, etc.
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  • Brenda Keckeisen
    January 1, 1970
    Good read, slow in the begaining but once it pulls you in, you are there until the end. Life's hard and even harder when dealing with a young child's death. It can and will tear a family apart. This books takes you through the very lows on how each member of a family has to deal with death separately. While also dealing with the loss of a home land and father.
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  • Sharon Umbaugh
    January 1, 1970
    Brilliant! Written from the perspective of a child, dealing with loss, change and life in Alaska, I'm reminded of the magical ways children think in order to make sense of their worlds. Fabulous debut novel!
  • Ian Hamilton
    January 1, 1970
    One of my favorite pieces of new fiction from the past couple of years - it really conjured up a range of robust emotions, as it veers from hauntingly tragic to darkly comedic from line-to-line. Superbly character-driven but also effective in its austere depiction of setting.
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