Excerpt from Afterparties by Anthony Veasna So , plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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by Anthony Veasna So

Afterparties by Anthony Veasna  So X
Afterparties by Anthony Veasna  So
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  • First Published:
    Aug 2021, 272 pages

    Jun 7, 2022, 288 pages


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Book Reviewed by:
Lisa Butts
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WEEKS AGO, Sothy's only nighttime employee quit. Tired, he said, of her limited kitchen, of his warped sleeping schedule, of how his dreams had slipped into a deranged place. And so a deal was struck for the summer: Sothy would refrain from hiring a new employee until September, and Tevy and Kayley would work alongside their mother, with the money saved going directly into their college funds. Inverting their lives, Tevy and Kayley would sleep during the hot, oppressive days, manning the cash register at night.

Despite some initial indignation, Tevy and Kayley of course agreed. The first two years after it opened—when Kayley was eight, Tevy not yet stricken by teenage resentment, and Sothy still married—Chuck's Donuts seemed blessed with good business. Imagine the downtown streets before the housing crisis, before the city declared bankruptcy and became the foreclosure capital of America. Imagine Chuck's Donuts surrounded by bustling bars and restaurants and a new IMAX movie theater, all filled with people still in denial about their impossible mortgages. Consider Tevy and Kayley at Chuck's Donuts after school each day—how they developed inside jokes with their mother, how they sold donuts so fast they felt like athletes, and how they looked out the store windows and saw a whirl of energy circling them.

Now consider how, in the wake of learning about their father's second family, in the next town over, Tevy and Kayley cling to their memories of Chuck's Donuts. Even with the recession wiping out almost every downtown business, and driving away their nighttime customers, save for the odd worn-out worker from the nearby hospital, consider these summer nights, endless under the fluorescent lights, the family's last pillars of support. Imagine Chuck's Donuts a mausoleum to their glorious past.

THE SECOND NIGHT THE MAN orders an apple fritter, he sits in the same booth. It is one in the morning, though the streetlamp still emits a dark nothing. He stares out the window all the same, and once more leaves his apple fritter untouched. Three days have passed since his first visit. Kayley crouches down, hiding behind the counter, as she watches the man through the donut display case. He wears a medium-gray suit, she notes, instead of the light-gray one, and his hair seems greasier.

"Isn't it weird that his hair is greasier than last time even though it's earlier in the night?" she asks Tevy, to which Tevy, deep in her book, answers, "That's a false causality, to assume that his hair grease is a direct result of time passing."

And Kayley responds, "Well, doesn't your hair get greasier throughout the day?"

And Tevy says, "You can't assume that all hair gets greasy. Like, we know your hair gets gross in the summer."

And Sothy, walking in, says, "Her hair wouldn't be greasy if she washed it." She wraps her arm around Kayley, pulls her close, and sniffs her head. "You smell bad, oun. How did I raise such a dirty daughter?" she says loudly.

"Like mother, like daughter," Tevy says, and Sothy whacks her head.

"Isn't that a false causality?" Kayley asks. "Assuming I'm like Mom just because I'm her daughter." She points at her sister's book. "Whoever wrote that would be ashamed of you."

Tevy closes her book and slams it into Kayley's side, whereupon Kayley digs her ragged nails into Tevy's arm, all of which prompts Sothy to grab them both by their wrists as she dresses them down in Khmer. As her mother's grip tightens around her wrist, Kayley sees, from the corner of her eye, that the man has turned away from the window and is looking directly at them, all three of them "acting like hotheads," as her father used to say. The man's face seems flush with disapproval, and, in this moment, she wishes she were invisible.

Still gripping her daughters' wrists, Sothy starts pulling them toward the kitchen's swinging doors. "Help me glaze the donuts!" she commands. "I'm tired of doing everything!"

Excerpted from Afterparties by Anthony Veasna So . Copyright © 2021 by Anthony Veasna So . Excerpted by permission of Ecco. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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