World and Town by Gish Jen

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Synopsis

From the much-loved author of Who’s Irish? and The Love Wife, a world-sized novel set in a small New England town.

Hattie Kong—the spirited offspring of a descendant of Confucius and an American missionary to China—has, in her fiftieth year of living in the United States, lost both her husband and her best friend to cancer. It is an utterly devastating loss, of course, and also heartbreakingly absurd: a little, she thinks, “like having twins. She got to book the same church with the same pianist for both funerals and did think she should have gotten some sort of twofer from the crematorium.”

But now, two years later, it is time for Hattie to start over. She moves to the town of Riverlake, where she is soon joined by an immigrant Cambodian family on the run from their inner-city troubles, as well as—quite unexpectedly—by a just-retired neuroscientist ex-lover named Carter Hatch. All of them are, like Hattie, looking for a new start in a town that might once have represented the rock-solid base of American life but that is itself challenged, in 2001, by cell-phone towers and chain stores, struggling family farms and fundamentalist Christians.

What Hattie makes of this situation is at the center of a novel that asks deep and absorbing questions about religion, home, America, what neighbors are, what love is, and, in the largest sense, what “worlds” we make of the world.

Moving, humorous, compassionate, and expansive, World and Town is as rich in character as it is brilliantly evocative of its time and place. This is a truly masterful novel—enthralling, essential, and satisfying.


From the Hardcover edition.
 

About Gish Jen

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Gish Jen is the author of two previous novels and a book of stories. Her honors include the Lannan Award for Fiction and the Strauss Living Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. She lives with her husband and two children in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Gish Jen's Who's Irish? and Mona in the Promised Land are available in Vintage paperback.From the Hardcover edition.
 
Published October 5, 2010 by Vintage. 481 pages
Genres: History, Literature & Fiction. Fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for World and Town

Kirkus Reviews

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But Hattie’s understanding of the family’s complex history is dangerously limited, and when Sophy becomes “born again” under the influence of a local woman whose brand of fundamental Christianity Hattie distrusts, the girl turns against not only Hattie but her troubled older brother with near tra...

Oct 11 2010 | Read Full Review of World and Town

The New York Times

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And who keeps America, America.” Wanting to help, Hattie finds herself drawn especially to the 15-year-old daughter, Sophy, who gradually discloses some details about her family’s situation.

Nov 05 2010 | Read Full Review of World and Town

The Washington Times

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Hattie and Sophy bond, but then Ginny, one of the women from the walking group, introduces Sophy to her fundamentalist church, and Sophy draws away from Hattie.

Oct 29 2010 | Read Full Review of World and Town

AV Club

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In World And Town, Gish Jen describes concentric circles of isolation among a handful of characters—a widow, a teenager, a divorced homesteader—who have chosen their loneliness, only to find that they don’t much care for it.

Oct 07 2010 | Read Full Review of World and Town

Entertainment Weekly

She sets her long-awaited novel World and Town in an idyllic New England town, the kind of place we like to carelessly fetishize as the real America.

Sep 29 2010 | Read Full Review of World and Town

The Washington Post

As Sophie struggles to negotiate her father's superstitions, her mother's Buddhism and a local church's dogma, Hattie wants to be the voice of enlightenment, advising the young woman to rise above others' limited views, but to what extent is Hattie similarly bound by the dimensions of her own bel...

Nov 10 2010 | Read Full Review of World and Town

Bookmarks Magazine

Gish Jen, a second-generation Chinese American baby boomer raised in the greater New York City area, often deploys immigrant characters and perspectives in her work, but her overarching theme is the broader scope of American cultural identity, which she has explored with wit and due gravity, begi...

Oct 03 2010 | Read Full Review of World and Town

The New Yorker

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Dec 06 2010 | Read Full Review of World and Town

Live Journal

On the other hand, the novel has an exceedingly complex and varied topography in terms of its character webs, where Hattie Kong, one of the ostensible protagonists, is looking after a new family that has moved to the area, a small town in the New England area known as Riverlake (somewhat reminisc...

Nov 11 2010 | Read Full Review of World and Town

Reader Rating for World and Town
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