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My Year Abroad door Chang-rae Lee
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My Year Abroad (editie 2021)

door Chang-rae Lee (Auteur)

LedenBesprekingenPopulariteitGemiddelde beoordelingAanhalingen
1206176,633 (3.39)5
Titel:My Year Abroad
Auteurs:Chang-rae Lee (Auteur)
Info:Penguin (2021), 496 pages
Verzamelingen:Jouw bibliotheek
Trefwoorden:fiction, indiespensable


My Year Abroad door Chang-Rae Lee

Onlangs toegevoegd doorRisaka, booksinthebelfry, jessdekker, surlysal, besloten bibliotheek, krtierney, jamieemerald, kyoki
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1-5 van 6 worden getoond (volgende | toon alle)
College student spends some time abroad and comes back home a changed man, but not in the way you might think. This was an entertaining read, with some dark themes; some parts worked a bit better for me than others, I dunno. ( )
  krtierney | Jun 1, 2021 |
This was a struggle to get through. Read as part of my Indiespensable subscription. A not very likable guy goes on an adventure that falls into his lap. Then he comes back a finds himself in a domestic situation. The narrative jumps back and forth between past and present for no good reason, as is currently popular.

This wasn't for me. ( )
  kcshankd | May 28, 2021 |
Two thirds of the way through Chang-Rae Lee’s thrill ride of a novel, “My Year Abroad,” protagonist Tiller Bardmon leads off a chapter this way: “Question: What happens to you when you’ve gone way too far? Not just off trail, not even bushwhacking, but venturing into a region where it turns out the usual physics don’t much apply. … To look back at myself during my stay at Drum Kappagoda’s lodge is to slough off every notion of whatever made me me.”

Lee spends almost 500 pages sloughing off every notion of what makes Tiller Tiller in “My Year Abroad.”

The basics, broadly: a wealthy Chinese-American entrepreneur takes Tiller under his wing and after a very short acquaintance flies him from his home in New Jersey to the Far East, pushing him into a key spokesperson’s role for a new health drink product he’s hoping to bring to market. Everything they do, every time they consume anything, all is over-indulgence—food, drink, drugs (taken both voluntarily and involuntarily)—and any kind of physical recreation. Gobs and gobs of money are invested, traded, made, or speculated about. Our heroes nearly drown in the surf off Oahu, pay a surprise visit to a brothel, and wind up at a secluded lodge outside of Shenzhen, Guangdong Province, in China. The owner of the lodge is hosting a competition for Yoga masters.

Tiller bears few illusions about himself: his mother fled the scene when Tiller was barely in grade school, and while he’s friendly and intelligent enough, he has a strong tendency to latch on—and not let go—to anyone who treats him well. The quote leading this review off appears before things really get weird for the young man.

So there’s nothing ordinary about the plot of “My Year Abroad.” We travel to some exotic locales, indulge in mind-boggling (at least for me) pastimes, run across some truly tough customers, and become imprisoned in a ruthless businessman’s workshop. All the while Tiller’s dad, Clark, thinks Tiller’s in Western Europe on the cheap, seeing the sights, dallying with young ladies, and pretending to study lit. The story is told in two threads: one contains the events I’ve described here, and the other occurs afterward, when Tiller has returned to the States, to an unidentified, unremarkable town.

Lee focuses us on the themes of race, slave exploitation (perpetrated by Asian businessmen), and shady modern business practices. Most of all, though, we have the painful growth of Tiller, with its chaotic, threatening nature. After he is drugged and … explored … by the oddly laconic daughter of a Far Eastern millionaire, he would look back on the experience, and utter the quote above, about sloughing off his old identity. Ultimately, one of the Yoga masters, a friendly if atypical practitioner, tells him to keep inviting the sublime that’s flowing around him.

Then she quotes the great Swami Sivananda: “‘This world is your body. This world is a great school. This world is your silent teacher.’”

Tiller says, “I loved hearing her say that, and as unsilently as she did. I loved, too, the idea of learning from the world, this world that was also only you. Was this the secret circularity? That belonged to you as much as it did to anyone? Yes and yes. The most pressing question, I suppose … was whether you belonged first to somebody else.”

This is a fine novel to experience. Everyone who loves a fun read will love “My Year Abroad.” The locations, the cultures, the action, the characters, the mystery, the tension in both narrative threads—all these prove Lee’s mastery and his vision. ( )
  LukeS | May 6, 2021 |
My Year Abroad by Chang-rae Lee is a very strange and interesting book. The basic plot—a young man, Tiller, lives with an older woman and her son as he tries to move on from a traumatic experience that he flashes back to throughout the book—does not really begin to cover it. There are a million weird characters and weirder situations that only Lee could make bearable with his crazy talent and style, but even he pushed the limits as The novel was a bit too strange and definitely too long. ( )
  Hccpsk | Mar 13, 2021 |
During his year abroad, Tiller Bardmon gets a surprising but practical education in the extremes of entrepreneurship, decadence and corruption. Armed with a trusting nature and a need to belong, Tiller embarks on his sabbatical with the naïve belief that he will learn something important about life. Instead, he ends up falling prey to a consummate grifter with an eye for the long con. Hence Chang-Rae Lee’s novel can be read as an ambitious critique of global capitalist overconsumption and the people who cash in on it. Along the way, he folds in plenty of humor, gluttony and sex but never loses focus on family dynamics.

Lee’s strength seems to be setting scenes, both big and small. His narrative shifts between the present in a shabby American suburb Tiller calls “Stagno” to the recent past in the privileged N.J. college town of Dunbar and Tiller’s wide-eyed tour of Asia. Lee embellishes these larger settings with more granular ones that serve as fodder for biting satire. In America, these include a faux English steak house, a pretentious suburban mansion, and an eclectic array of upscale fusion restaurants (WTF Yo! frozen yogurt, Gnarly Gnoodle Soups, MadMad Maki). In Asia, Lee takes us from the casinos of Macau to karaoke bars and an upscale brothel in Shenzhen and ultimately to an isolated sprawling palatial estate on the Pearl River Delta.

Tiller, a minimally Asian and minimally motivated 20-year-old, narrates the story. He is open to being led by a couple of older and more experienced Asian adults. Val, an older woman with a needy son, is hiding from the mob in “Stagno.” Pong Lou is a scammer with the uncanny ability to groom pigeons. In this instance, the game involves introducing an Indonesian health drink known as jamu to the lucrative Asian market as a tonic with miraculous properties alleged to cure disease. The problem with this plan for Pong and, by association, Tiller is the unfortunate choice as their sponsor and pigeon. Drum Kappagoda is a ruthless Asian gangster with strange ideas about how to cure his cancer. He is surrounded by an eclectic cast of malevolent characters, including a manipulative daughter, a trapped ESL teacher and a sadistic chef. Obviously, nothing good will come from this.

Lee tells the story in a haphazard picaresque narrative that is anything but clear. It is filled with food imagery, sexual content and racial stereotypes that can be off putting as well as downright bizarre. The mood carries a strong sense of imminent danger that in the end actually materializes. It is easy to understand why Lee chose to make Tiller such an empty vessel since he offers the opportunity to educate the reader about racial issues as they exist in both Eastern and Western cultures. Yet it is hard to develop much empathy for such a protagonist. Clearly, Tiller’s choices and flaws come from a family dynamic that consisted of an absent mother and distant father. Both Val and Pong seem to be substitutes for a flawed family life. ( )
  ozzer | Mar 12, 2021 |
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