A collection of stories set in contemporary Thailand … These are generous, tender tales of family bonds, youthful romance, generational conflicts, and cultural shiftings beneath the glossy surface of a warm, Edenic setting. Rattawut Lapcharoensap offers a diverse, humorous, and deeply affectionate view of life in a small Southeast Asian country that is inevitably absorbing the waves of encroaching Westernization.
In the prizewinning opening story, “Farangs,” the young son of a modest beachside motel owner commits the cardinal sin of falling for a pretty tourist, and the confrontation that ensues between the native boy and the girl’s pompous American boyfriend culminates wondrously amid flying mangoes and Clint Eastwood—a pet pig—swimming out to sea. In “Sightseeing,” the much-anticipated holiday of a young man about to leave for college and his loving and fiercely independent mother becomes a different kind of pilgrimage altogether when they are forced to confront the mother’s impending blindness. The concluding novella, “Cockfighter,” is a triumph of storytelling in which a young girl witnesses her proud father’s valiant but foolhardy and drawn-out battle against the local delinquent and violent hoodlum whose family’s vicious stranglehold on the villagers has passed down unchecked through generations.
Through his vivid assemblage of parents and children, natives and transients, ardent lovers and sworn enemies, Lapcharoensap dares us to look with new eyes at the circumstances that shape our views and the prejudices that form our blind spots. Gorgeous and lush, painful and candid, Sightseeing is an extraordinary reading experience, one that powerfully reveals that when it comes to how we respond to pain, anger, hurt, and love, no place is too far from home.
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