Summary and book reviews of That Time I Loved You by Carianne Leung

That Time I Loved You

Stories

by Carianne Leung

That Time I Loved You by Carianne Leung X
That Time I Loved You by Carianne Leung
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  • Published:
    Feb 2019, 224 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Rebecca Foster
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Book Summary

In this exquisite American debut, Carrianne Leung evokes the legacies of Cheever and Munro with a haunting depiction of 1970s suburbia.

In her "compact gem of a collection" (Globe & Mail), Carrianne Leung enlivens a singular group of characters sharing a shiny new subdivision in 1970s Toronto. Marilyn greets new neighbors with fresh-baked cookies before she starts stealing from them. Stay-at-home-wife Francesca believes passion is just one yard away, only in the arms of another man. And Darren doesn't understand why his mother insists he keep his head down, even though he gets good grades like his white friends. When a series of inexplicable suicides begin to haunt their community, no one is more fascinated by the terrible phenomenon than young June. The daughter of Chinese immigrants, she sits hawk-eyed at the center, bearing witness to the truth behind pulled curtains: the affairs, the racism, the hidden abuses.

Leung bursts onto the American literary stage with prose remarkably attuned to the tenuous, and perhaps deceptive, idea of happiness among these picket-fenced lives.

Grass

1979: This was the year the parents in my neighbourhood began killing themselves. I was eleven years old and in Grade 6. Elsewhere in the world, big things were happening. McDonald's introduced the Happy Meal, Ayatollah Khomeini returned to Iran and Michael Jackson released his album Off the Wall. But none of that was as significant to me as the suicides.

It started with Mr. Finley, Carolyn Finley's dad. It was a Saturday afternoon in freezing February. My best friend, Josie, and I were sitting on her bed, playing Barry Manilow's "Copacabana" over and over again on her cassette player and writing down the lyrics. I was the recorder while Josie pressed play, rewind, and play again a hundred times, repeating the lines over to me until the ribbon finally snapped and we had to repair it with Scotch tape.

"Did you get that, June? Did you get that?" she kept asking me as I nodded and wrote furiously on lined paper. We kept all the transcribed lyrics in a special pink binder marked...

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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

Suburbia gets a bad rap, but it's where so many of us come from, so it's heartening to see a writer taking it seriously. And although this particular community has more than its fair share of unhappy secrets, the connections that form between unlikely allies – like Poh Poh and June's friend Nav, who's persecuted for his effeminate behavior – are sparks of hope. As June reports, "My father once said that it was never completely dark in the suburbs. Light was always escaping and spilling everywhere."   (Reviewed by Rebecca Foster).

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Media Reviews

Booklist
Starred Review. Readers peer through chain-link fences and discretely pulled curtains along with Leung's vivid, quotable characters--and are reminded that life doesn't happen between soap-opera episodes, cigarettes smoked at the kitchen sink, and trips to the mall, but during them.

Kirkus Reviews
Starred Review. Written in the tradition of Alice Munro and Jhumpa Lahiri, Leung's debut story collection marks the career of a writer to watch.

Author Blurb William Giraldi, author of Hold the Dark and American Audacity
If you think Updike and Cheever have a monopoly on the familial and cultural quakings of 1970s suburbia, Carrianne Leung is about to complicate and enrich that picture. Here are expertly confected stories about what families and neighbors unleash upon one another in a milieu too raw for contentment but too beauteous to abandon.

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Beyond the Book

Linked Short Stories

Linked short stories, novels in stories, story cycles – these are terms for collections in which the stories are not all discrete pieces with separate worlds and characters. Instead, characters recur, whether subtly or overtly, and multiple stories have the same setting. What makes linked short stories so enjoyable, and what sets them apart from novels? I started by asking Carrianne Leung, author of That Time I Loved You, why she chose this format. "It's the different gazes that really animate the relationships and sense of place for me," she replied. Many in the online book community agree that linked short stories are an excellent way to explore points of view. "I feel [the form] allows a more expansive view of a community and ...

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