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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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  • Published in USA  Apr 2022
    288 pages
    Genre: Novels

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There are currently 26 member reviews
for Activities of Daily Living
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  • Leslie R. (Arlington, VA)
    Not for everyone
    Activities of Daily Living by Lisa Hsiao Chen is beautifully written, with unique descriptions and many meaningful insights. The basic plot (although that term is a stretch, as is the designations of novel) revolves around a young Chinese girl who moved to America as a young child and works as a video narrator. Alice lives in New York; her sister Amy lives in San Francisco, where they share the care of their aging stepfather. The father's decline and ultimate death is the thread that carries the story along. Throughout the narrative, however, is the story of a Taiwanese performance artist with whom Alice is obsessed and about whom she is planning an ephemeral project. The book is literally filled with references to this "artist" and references to dozens of other obscure artists and philosophers. Granted, I am not familiar with performance art, nor with many French philosophers, so the book required quite a bit of effort to read—more effort than I believe the average "novel" reader would want to put into it.
  • Stephanie K. (Glendale, AZ)
    Wonderfully Crafted Story
    Ms. Chen does an excellent job of keeping two storylines, the Project and the Father, going at the same time. At times running on parallel tracks, these two elements converge beautifully to relate a lush tale of reality, fantasy, grief and fleeting moments of happiness. Having gone through similar challenges and sorrows, I can say confidently that the author portrays the experience of them transparently and with brutal honesty. This book will touch and satisfy the former or current caregiver who really does care. Having a Project in the author's sense of the term truly does preserve your sanity and keeps you alive to complete "It," whatever the It may be.
  • Beth B. (New Wilmington, PA)
    LIFE, time, art, projects
    Fellow readers, this is a UNIQUE novel, one that is extremely difficult to review, but one that I recommend to those who appreciate an author's skill with the interweaving of two stories. The research that led up to publication must have been grueling! How to combine Alice, her sister, and her father's decline into dementia with the far-fetched projects of Tehching Hsich is the task.

    I can guarantee if you wish to see writing skill demonstrated, read this and do not miss the author's citations on the last page.
  • Sonia Francis
    A collage in the cycle of life
    In as much as I found this novel relatable, specifically the witnessing a parent’s end of life as I have been through it, I would have been okay with just the caring of a dying loved one. There are two different stories happening and in as much as I tried to see the parallel, I personally related to the end of life journey of the stepfather. That part of the novel carried more weight for me than the project of the artist.Because of personal bias, favoring this story, I find it difficult to review. There are times I thought the storyline wandered and meandered, like when the French author Simone de Beauvoir was mentioned and there was an entire almost two pages about her “The coming of age”. I found myself researching this author and being curious about her work… this took me away from focusing on the story. In other words, the author did not do a good enough job to keep me “hooked”. If it was not for the stepfather and his mental decline, I don’t known how much this novel will have kept me reading. All in all, the stepfather’s experience in nursing homes and all the safety nets or lack thereof I totally experienced with a love one and that was realistic and relatable.
  • Arlene S. (Granger, IN)
    Activities of Daily Living
    There is no real plot to this book other than the suspense we all live with day to day to see what tomorrow will bring.
    There are two simultaneous stories going on here: Adult stepchildren taking care of an aging stepfather and the difficulty that brings. Remembering "what was" and merging that with "what is", heartbreaking at times; and the activities of daily living that everyone has in their life. The most mundane tasks are amplified and reflected upon. The things we do by reflex and don't give much thought to, well, they all take time, and they all must be done. We are all coping with what we need to do.
    This book heightens awareness of what is required.
  • Mitra V. (Stamford, CT)
    A brilliant but esoteric book
    The writer Ms. Lisa Hsiao Chen leaves no doubt in the reader's mind of her mastery over the New York artists scene. The whole book deals with pulls and pressures that conflict her very existence. The pull of her ancestry but the fears surrounding her ignorance of all its aspects. The pull of an artists excitement but her fears and insecurity that lead her to live her dreams through another artist. The pull of her wide episodic knowledge of the artiste's scene in New York but her inability to edit her knowledge into an effective commentary. Ms. Chen evidently is very knowledgeable on the general scene around the artists in New York and every aspect that is linked with it. Where she comes short, in my view, is to pull together the family angle and her career angle into a more holistic account. The reader is left tired jumping from one disjointed chapter to the other. The book will no doubt make an impact on a tiny, much younger section of New Yorkers with similar proclivities and tuned in more accurately to the city's particularities. However, it is possible that it will fail to grasp and keep the attention of all ethnicities and ages. The main reason is that the bond between the reader and the writer, so essential for universal acclaim, fails to make its presence at any point.
  • Mel F. (Auburn, MA)
    Challenging book with some narrative including impressive literary and artistic references
    In this book, Ms. Chen takes the reader on a thought provoking journey into diverse paths which involve how two different people - one factual and one fictional - use their lives to illustrate the concepts of life and time.

    Her main character, Alice, creates a project (term used in the book) to immerse herself in the actual performance art of Tehching Hsieh (referred to as the Artist) whose art consists of a series of year long performances where he is the only actor in a series of unusual activities (which I thought bizarre) where he totally disengages himself from any distractions or activities and faces total isolation. His "Cage Piece" involved him building a cage in his apartment outfitted with only a bed and slop bucket. It is devoid of any distractions like TV, radio, etc. and he engages in no activities. His friend provides him with daily sustenance and empties his slop bucket. No conversation is exchanged and his friend takes random photographs of the Artist during this caged period.

    Alice is concurrently acting as primary caregiver to her Taiwanese stepfather (referred to as Father) who is sinking into the abyss of dementia.

    I found this a very difficult read. When discussing the Artist, Ms. Chen makes extensive references to various famous artists, authors and philosophers who were unfamiliar to me. I decided to research some of these people so that correlations/parallels to the Artist and Alice's experiences would become clearer. However, it increased my confusion, caused frustration and diverted my reading time. My research did garner my interest in these individuals, particularly the Artist himself.

    Ms. Chen's writing style was also difficult since there wasn't any fluidity between chapters, characters were randomly included but not thoroughly introduced and she sporadically used different writing styles. There were elements of the novel that were well done like her experiences with her Father since they are relatable to anyone dealing with the aging process. She also exhibited significant knowledge of her references.

    This is not a novel that I would intentionally choose. I think it is better suited to readers who are more familiar with art, particularly performance art, or who have an abstract or philosophical persuasion.

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