A stirring political drama about upheaval in Burma and the emotional consequences wrought for generations.
Yasi has been publishing short stories for years, but this is her first book-length effort. The story begins in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in 1999 with a moment of acute emotional epiphany: Eleven-year-old Burmese-American Bobby finally discovers that the man who raised him is not his biological father. His real father, a pro-democracy poet, has been missing for years in war-torn Burma; he’s now presumed dead. Bobby’s mother, Gurney, a native Burmese photographer and activist, tearfully confesses his genuine patrimony, and she’s forced to confront a Pandora’s box of painful remembrances. The narrative quickly vacillates between Cambridge and a tumultuous Burma in 1988, deftly juxtaposing the nation’s frightening turmoil with the heart-wrenching agitation Bobby’s mother and her cadre of friends and family suffered. Complicating this visceral tinderbox is the possibility that Maung Naing, Bobby’s biological father and Gurney’s lover, may be alive somewhere and still working with forces opposing the military junta. While much of the work is propelled by dialogue, Yasi’s prose can sometimes strike elegiac notes: “They brought her something to eat, sometimes dried fish in the rice, but not lately. Gurney watched the guard’s face. It was in itself, a square, hungry face. It’s easier to look at a face, to forgive what you see, than to forgive broken ideas.” Dedicated to the Burmese people, the work is a ringing testament to the nation’s modern struggles, especially timely given its recent political transformation.
A complex tale that adeptly balances history with personal drama.