Chia-Chia Lin in conversation with D. Wystan Owen
Tuesday, May 7, 2019, 7:00 p.m., City Lights Booksellers, 261 Columbus Avenue, San Francisco
celebrating the release of her new novel
published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux
One of Esquire, The Rumpus, The Millions, Literary Hub and Electric Literature's Most Anticipated Books of 2019
In Chia-Chia Lin's debut novel, The Unpassing, we meet a Taiwanese immigrant family of six struggling to make ends meet on the outskirts of Anchorage, Alaska. The father, hardworking but beaten down, is employed as a plumber and repairman, while the mother, a loving, strong-willed, and unpredictably emotional matriarch, holds the house together. When ten-year-old Gavin contracts meningitis at school, he falls into a deep, nearly fatal coma. He wakes up a week later to learn that his little sister Ruby was infected, too. She did not survive.
Routine takes over for the grieving family: the siblings care for each other as they befriend a neighboring family and explore the woods; distance grows between the parents as they deal with their loss separately. But things spiral when the father, increasingly guilt ridden after Ruby's death, is sued for not properly installing a septic tank, which results in grave harm to a little boy. In the ensuing chaos, what really happened to Ruby finally emerges.
With flowing prose that evokes the terrifying beauty of the Alaskan wilderness, Lin explores the fallout after the loss of a child and the way in which a family is forced to grieve in a place that doesn't yet feel like home. Emotionally raw and subtly suspenseful, The Unpassing is a deeply felt family saga that dismisses the American dream for a harsher, but ultimately more profound, reality.
Chia-Chia Lin is a graduate of Harvard College and the Iowa Writers' Workshop. Her stories have appeared in The Paris Review and other journals. She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area. The Unpassing is her first novel.
D. Wystan Owen holds an MFA from the Iowa Writers' Workshop. He is the author of the novel Other People's Love Affairs. His fiction and essays have appeared in A Public Space, the American Scholar, Literary Hub, and the Threepenny Review, where he is Deputy Editor. A citizen dually of the United States and the United Kingdom, he now lives in Northern California.
Advance Praise for The Unpassing:
"In this spare, deeply felt debut novel, Lin resists received wisdom about the American dream to craft a family saga about the difficulty of grieving far from home." --Adrienne Westenfeld, Esquire
"Chia-Chia Lin's The Unpassing is a searing, open wound of a book, marvelously alive and, quite simply, remarkable. Traversing the oftentimes brutal frontier of an isolated family living in an isolated environment, I can’t think of another novel as of late that relentlessly tackles headlong our deepest struggles for a sense of place, of home, and belonging. How do we push through grief? How do we find peace with not only our loved ones but ourselves? What sacrifices must we endure for friendship and connection? This is a story for our times. And a story unlike any other." —Paul Yoon, author of The Mountain
"The Unpassing is a devastating debut, igneous, aching as if with the glow of the great northern skies beneath which it is set. More than meditation on grief; more than immigrant saga, or bildungsroman; more than new American gothic: here, Chia-Chia Lin has written a novel of such strange, brittle beauty as to resemble nothing else so much as living, itself. Her prose—at once poetic and lucid, by turns darkly comic and haunting—achieves something like the peculiar grammar of loss. I turned the last page with heartache and wonder, a feeling of having been undone and remade." —D. Wystan Owen, author of Other People's Love Affairs