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UNWELCOME by Quincy Carroll


by Quincy Carroll

Pub Date: Feb. 22nd, 2022
ISBN: 978-1-78869-251-9
Publisher: Camphor Press

A man’s story of his time in China may not be what it seems in this literary novel.

Cole Chen spends a year in Hunan Province, where his American friends provide him with a job and an apartment in the bustling city of Changsha. “You’d set two goals for yourself that year,” he narrates to himself, “find a girlfriend and write a book (your first time attempting either). You’d had plenty of hookups in school but never really made it much further than that….What was the saying? ‘Sow your wild oats.’ ” He meets a woman named Harmony, a painter who also turns out to be a con artist. The two begin an affair, though one fated to end abruptly. Back in San Francisco after his year abroad, Cole is editing his memoir while overstaying his welcome on his brother Abraham’s couch. Rumors circulate about Cole making women “feel weird,” and Abraham suspects something happened in Changsha. As the two timelines unfold side by side—Cole in China from his own perspective and Cole in America from the viewpoints of those around him—a contradictory narrative emerges. The story that Cole tells about himself may not be the whole truth, especially given the writerly flourishes of his memoir. But will the rest of the tale come to light? Whether aligned with Cole or someone else, Carroll’s prose is exact and cutting, as here where Abraham ponders the silences in his brother’s tale: “It was clear that something had happened in Changsha. You would never know it, though, given the way he spoke. It was all adventure this and freedom that, roses and green fields, when the reality of the situation was something closer to the fact that he had hit rock bottom.” This is one of those novels of which the less said, the better. As readers realize just what the author is doing, the work morphs from a bookish-man-abroad tale into something more thrilling. It’s a story of a subtler sort of toxic masculinity, one that feels timely and yet organic. From concept to execution, Carroll delivers.

An engrossing and unsettling tale of self-mythology and self-delusion.