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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"Mom should start smoking," Kayley says.

And Tevy asks, "Why?"

"It'd force her to take breaks," Kayley says. "Every time she wanted to smoke, she'd stop working, go outside, and smoke."

"Depends on what would kill her faster," Tevy says. "Smoking or working too much."

Then Kayley asks, softly, "Do you think Dad loves his new wife?"

Tevy answers, "He better."

HERE'S HOW SOTHY AND HER ex-husband were supposed to handle their deal with the uncle: Every month, Sothy would give her then husband 20 percent of Chuck's Donuts' profits. Every month, her then husband would wire that money to his uncle. And every month, they would be one step closer to paying off their loan before anyone with ties to criminal activity could bat an eyelash.

Here's what actually happened: One day, weeks before she discovered that her husband had conceived two sons with another woman while they were married, Sothy received a call at Chuck's Donuts. It was a man speaking in Khmer, his accent thick and pure. At first, Sothy hardly understood what he was saying. His sentences were too fluid, his pronunciation too proper. He didn't truncate his words, the way so many Khmer American immigrants did, and Sothy found herself lulled into a daze by those long-lost syllables. Then she heard what the man's words actually meant. He was the accountant of her husband's uncle. He was asking about their loan, whether they had any intention of paying it back. It had been years, and the uncle hadn't received any payments, the accountant said with menacing regret.

Sothy later found out—from her husband's guilt-stricken mistress, of all people—that her husband had used the profits she'd given him, the money intended to pay off their loan, to support his second family. In the divorce settlement, Sothy agreed not to collect child support, in exchange for sole ownership of Chuck's Donuts, for custody of their daughters, and for her ex-husband's promise to talk to his uncle and to eventually pay off their loan, this time with his own money. He had never intended to cheat his uncle, he proclaimed. He had simply fallen in love with another woman. It was true love. What else could he do? And, of course, he had an obligation to his other children, the sons who bore his name.

Still, he promised to right this wrong. But how can Sothy trust her ex-husband? Will a man sent by the uncle one day appear at her doorstep, or at Chuck's Donuts, or in the alley behind Chuck's Donuts, and right their wrong for them? A promise is a promise, yet, in the end, it is only that.

AN ENTIRE WEEK HAS PASSED since the man's last visit. Sothy's fears have begun to wane. There are too many donuts to make, too many bills to pay. It helped, too, when she called her ex-husband to yell at him.

"You selfish pig of a man," she said. "You better be paying your uncle back. You better not put your daughters in danger. You better not be doing the same things you've always done—thinking only about yourself and what you want. I can't even talk to you right now. If your uncle sends someone to collect money from me, I will tell him how disgraceful you are. I will tell him how to find you and then you'll face the consequences of being who you are, who you've always been. Remember, I know you better than anyone."

She hung up before he could respond, and even though this call hasn't gained her any real security, she feels better. She almost wants the man to be a hit man sent by the uncle so that she can direct him straight to her ex-husband. Not that she wants her ex-husband to be killed. But she does want to see him punished.

The night the man returns, Sothy, Tevy, and Kayley are preparing a catering order for the hospital three blocks over. Sothy needs to deliver a hundred donuts to the hospital before eleven thirty. The gig pays good money, more money than Chuck's Donuts has made all month. Sothy would rather not leave her daughters alone, but she cannot send them to deliver the donuts. She'll be gone only an hour. And what can happen? The man never shows up before midnight, anyway.

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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