Read advance reader review of Activities of Daily Living by Lisa Hsiao Chen

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Activities of Daily Living

A Novel

by Lisa Hsiao Chen

Activities of Daily Living by Lisa Hsiao Chen X
Activities of Daily Living by Lisa Hsiao Chen
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  • Publishes in USA 
    Apr 12, 2022
    288 pages
    Genre: Novels

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for Activities of Daily Living
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  • Julie Z. (Oak Park, IL)
    Activities of Daily Living by Lisa Hsiao Chen
    Alice is a Taiwanese immigrant living in NYC. In her free time, she is researching and writing about Tehsching Hsieh, an obscure performance artist, whom she refers to as "the Artist" ( While Hsieh's art often is centered on the notion of time, Alice's stepfather ("the Father" in the novel) is dying of Alzheimer's disease; wrestling with time in his own way. Alice flies back and forth to San Francisco, trying to find the best care for the Father, while trying to carry out her own daily living through her job, research, and relationships with friends. Hsiao Chan has a spare, distinctive writing style, which lends itself to the story at hand. Her treatment of the end of her stepfather's life is touching and rang true to me, as my mother also died of Alzheimer's. An excellent debut novel.
  • Lynn D. (Kingston, NY)
    Life and art in time
    What an interesting and unusual novel!
    There are two story threads. Alice is struggling with her Taiwanese Father's decline into dementia and his need for more and more help. The descriptions of her father's experiences in care facilities seem very true to me.
    In her spare time Alice is researching a famous (but not to me) performance artist in NYC. The stories are connected by the details of Alice's life and her thinking about life and art. She uses the idea of the Project to explore these ideas, whether or not the project is ever completed, or ever seen or appreciated by anyone else. The many digressions into history, philosophy, etc, enhance the story. This is a thought provoking novel with sympathetic characters.
  • Lucy S. (Ann Arbor, MI)
    Memorable, vivid, and tender
    In Activities of Daily Living, Lisa Hsiao Chen expertly weaves together two storylines: The Father, in which main character Alice is caring for her aging step-father, and The Artist, in which Alice is creating a project that studies the works of performance artist Teching Hsieh.

    Both storylines examine time, how it is used, viewed, and passed. The structure of the book reflects this theme through its nonlinear chronology. Time skips around, is loose, a character itself. Chen deftly uses Alice's project to inform readers about true-to-life events and people in the art world, while easily bringing us back to the moving story of a man succumbing to dementia.

    This amazing book asks whether a life without creativity is worth living, and is the act of creativity more important than the outcome. It is a mediation on the importance of art and what we do with the passing of time.
  • Melissa C. (Saint Johns, FL)
    Pondering the meaning of "time"
    I didn't know what to expect from this book, other than reading rave reviews. And I have to agree, this book is wonderful. Rarely do I find myself wanting to re-read passages to fully absorb what the author is saying. Anyone who has experienced caring for an elderly or sick loved one will find themselves nodding or shaking their heads in concert with Alice, the main character, as she contends with caring for her dying stepfather and contemplating the meaning of "time."
  • Lorraine D. (Lacey, WA)
    A Refocusing on What Is Important
    Activities of Daily Living is a recounting of everyday experiences of a freelance writer as she pursues what she regards as projects. One of these projects is to trace the unusual and challenging career of performance artist, Tehching Hsieh, whose works are performed in segments of 12 continuous months. Simultaneously, her parent's journey through Dementia into Alzheimers becomes a concurrent project; sometimes painful and difficult to read, as she attempts to cope with the progression. This was a riveting novel about art and life, and the impact of choices and circumstance. The meticulously descriptive accounting of these ongoing events affirms the importance of one's view and use of time. A project has a beginning and an end; lives and relationships have beginnings and endings. This novel is a reminder that life is a Project, and one cannot change the past or the future, nor repeatedly ruminate over them. The reader is refocused on the importance of the present moment – all that we can truly affect. I found the book difficult to put down.
  • Terrie J. (Eagan, MN)
    A Book for All
    This book was very thought-provoking. The title sums it up perfectly. The story wove us through daily actions in a way that allowed me to be in the events and compare it to similar events in my life. The main character described activities that were split between an artist's work and her father's decline. Her choice of words used to describe common things we all feel and go through immersed you in her story and gave importance to our daily activities, no matter how trivial or important. I highly recommend this book.
  • Susan W. (Berkley, MI)
    Multilayered, moving novel
    This book gives the reader a lot to think about. On one level it deals with the relationship between parent and child. This was the one I couldn't get out of my thoughts, as I volleyed between being the adult child and the parent: how it feels to grow old, how it feels to watch your parent age.

    The project was at times too rambling for me, with its obscure references to writings and artwork that were not familiar to me. However, it did serve to move the novel forward, and it was definitely a central part of the narrative. Art is life is art.

    I liked this book also for its lens into a different kind of Chinese family, unlike and yet so similar to many of us, walking the fine line between ghosts of the past and survival in the present.
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