(3 / 5) – It’s Okay
Books of stories often have a gem or two and otherwise leave me a bit “meh” about the book as a whole. Unfortunately, Te-Ping Chen’s “Land of Big Numbers” was just such a compilation. I appreciated that Chen’s stories were rooted deeply in reality and the truth of life, ending with unsettled futures. This lived experience doesn’t usually bother me as a reader, but after ten such stories, the unresolved melancholy left me with an unpleasant reading experience.
Chen has the courage to address heavy and meaningful social issues for the people of China and the world such as governmental censorship, toxic masculinity, role of women in social situations, social apathy and many more. Each social commentary was subtle and rooted in the lives and emotional landscapes of the various characters. The reader is offered insight and perspective without being hit over the head with a particular opinion. The reader is left to ruminate within the complexity of the situations without a clear cut resolution.
There is an honesty and vulnerability within these stories that I don’t want to discredit or diminish. Two of these stories in particular, “Lulu” and “Beautiful Country” have found their way into my subconscious and I find myself thinking about them often. There is a power and potency here that lingers for sure. My particular tastes did not appreciate the depth of melancholy that came with this compilation. With that said, I know there are people who would LOVE this book and the diving into the ether of these lives and relationships. Don’t shy away from it if “Land of Big Numbers” intrigues. You will find a gem of a story, or perhaps even a book.