Books by Chang-rae Lee

ON SUCH A FULL SEA by Chang-rae Lee
Released: Jan. 7, 2014

"Welcome and surprising proof that there's plenty of life in end-of-the-world storytelling."
A harrowing and fully imagined vision of dystopian America from Lee, who heretofore has worked in a more realist mode. Read full book review >
THE SURRENDERED by Chang-rae Lee
Released: March 9, 2010

"A major achievement, likely to be remembered as one of this year's best books."
The odyssey of a Korean War refugee becomes first the subject of, then a haunting overture to, the award-winning Korean-American author's fourth novel (Aloft, 2004, etc.). Read full book review >
ALOFT by Chang-rae Lee
Released: March 8, 2004

"Beautiful writing, richly drawn characters, and a powerful sense of life enduring in spite of all. A fine and very moving performance."
An introspective widower rises above his "habit/condition of disbelieving the Real"—in this generously ruminative third novel. Read full book review >
A GESTURE LIFE by Chang-rae Lee
Released: Sept. 7, 1999

From the author of the award-winning Native Speaker (1995), a remarkable portrait of a distinctively tragic, expansive man coming of age in America. "Doc" Hata (once Kurohata), a Japanese-American pharmacist in the fraying town of Bedley Run, New York, is no troubled youth, which is the first of unexpected—and welcome—fulfillments here: a story in which an American man "appreciate[s] the comforts of real personhood, and its attendant secrets" only after he's retired. A lifelong bachelor, Hata, a Japanese veteran of WWII, enjoys the comforts of a well-established, socially comfortable life. After a minor accident at home, Hata is taken to the hospital and hears of the death of Mary Burns, as well as news of his estranged daughter, Sunny. Having adopted Sunny when she was eight, Hata recalls the painful dissolution of his relation with her—a breach that originated with the abortion he insisted on for his daughter when she was 18. Mary Burns, a widow who had not only helped Hata with Sunny but had been his lover, amicably leaves him after finding him unable to return her affection. Startled to feel such loneliness at the center of his otherwise contented life, Hata finds its root in his wartime months with Kkutaeh, an unforgettably evoked comfort woman who was consigned to Hata's care in his outpost during the war. Called "K," she was a Korean-born, Japanese-raised woman of fine intelligence and sweeping grace, a companion soul he fell in love with but was unable to save from death. In these scenes, Lee's prose and dramatic momentum carry a lean, rich precision to indelible effect: his writing is washed in a shimmer of suppressed grief, and it brings Hata to a bright, calm, right reconciliation with his daughter, his past, and with himself. Lee is a writer of exquisite intimacy and delicate disclosures—and in Hata, he's found the perfect means to explore these gifts. Read full book review >
NATIVE SPEAKER by Chang-rae Lee
Released: March 22, 1995

In quiet, rich tones, Korean-American Henry Park, the narrator of this debut, speaks more clearly about his estranged wife than about his work. This is only natural, for Henry is employed as a sort of industrial spy, and his most recent assignment is to infiltrate the people surrounding John Kwang, a Korean-American New York City councilman who may be headed for bigger things. Dealing with the slick Kwang causes him to reminisce about his own father, who owned fruit and vegetable stores and encouraged him to marry a white woman. Inadvertently following his father's advice, he ended up married to Lelia, a speech therapist. Their son died at seven when he participated in a ``dog pile'' gone wrong. Subsequently, Lelia wanders off periodically and then finally leaves Henry for good. Lee creates the perfect tone for Henry—distanced, but never ironic or snappish. His observations and memories have the discomfiting feel of revealing truth. He tells how his father made him recite Shakespeare to show off his English for customers, and how one day he was commanded to allow a regular customer to exit a store without paying for an apple she had bitten and returned to a shelf. ``Mostly, though,'' says Henry, ``I threw all my frustration into building those perfect, truncated pyramids of fruit.'' He also describes how his father employed recently arrived immigrants because they were the hardest workers. His grappling with his son's death (``You pale little boys are crushing him, your adoring mob of hands and feet, your necks and heads, your nostrils and knees, your still-sweet sweat and teeth and grunts'') and the slow rapprochement between him and Lelia are wonderfully drawn. The sections on his work are somewhat more challenging, particularly since his exact job is not very clear in the beginning, but Lee's careful prose conveys an immigrant's ability to observe without participating, and an outsider's longing for place and identity. A serious, masterful, and wholly innovative twist on first- generation-American fiction. (First printing of 30,000; first serial to Granta; Quality Paperback Book Club selection; author tour) Read full book review >