World and Town: Book summary and reviews of World and Town by Gish Jen

World and Town

By Gish Jen

World and Town
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  • Published in USA  Oct 2010,
    400 pages.

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Book Summary

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.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"Starred Review. Jen's prose is unique, dense, and enthralling, and her characters are marvels of authenticity." - Publishers Weekly Pick of the Week

"Starred Review. Jen’s richly stippled novel slyly questions every assumption about existence and meaning even as it celebrates generosity, friendship, and love." - Booklist

"[The] usually deft Jen has thrown too many characters into the stew, serving up a novel of ideas more easily admired than enjoyed." - Kirkus

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Author Information

Gish Jen Author Biography

Gish Jen was born in Long Island, New York in 1955, a second-generation Chinese-American. She graduated from Harvard with a degree in English and later attended the Iowa Writers' Workshop.

Jen is the author of four novels and a book of stories. In addition, her stories have been published in many places including The New Yorker, The Atlantic Monthly, The New Republic, The Los Angeles Times, and The New York Times, as well as in various anthologies. Her honors include the Lannan Award for Fiction and the Strauss Living Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. She currently lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts with her husband and children.

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