Guest review by Hannah Krull
1. What is the book?
The Sorrows of Others
2. Who wrote it?
3. What is it about?
Through a series of short stories, Ada Zhang explores the human condition through careful treatment of love, violence, social change, and diaspora. Highlighting relationships between immigrant families and their homelands, traditions, and foods, Zhang asks critical questions about the process of moving between being an insider and an outsider. What happens when we leave home, and what happens when we stay? What selves do we meet and shed in the process of becoming?
4. Why did I read it?
I read The Sorrows of Others because I was interested in the philosophical and emotional dimensions by which Ada Zhang analyzes otherwise commonplace interactions and family dynamics. As the beautiful cover illustrates, hinting at Zhang’s writing which lies just inside the jacket – though the paths of our lives often come with isolation and separation, there are critical moments in which our paths cross and weave together.
5. What do I think?
Zhang tells each story in a unique voice and from a variety of subjects, cultivating a cast of characters who navigate growing distant from friends, healing from the tragic loss of a sibling, learning family history that paints loved ones in a poor light, and struggling to be authentic in a world that operates on a different set of values. Though each story grapples with loneliness and isolation, moments can be found in each telling that provide a glimmer of hope into an otherwise somber account of human experience. I appreciated Zhang’s treatment of each character, relatable in their humanity even when moving through a world which I personally have little connection to – set in China and the United States, this collection is a beautiful rendering of Chinese immigrant and outsider experiences which asks important questions from the inside - ones that rarely make it through into popular culture. Zhang’s writing, amplified by the organization of the book, encourages an identification with each figure – even despite their at times unlikable and frustrating inner monologues which the reader is privy to.
The Sorrows of Others by Ada Zhang is a short read which can easily be picked up and set down, as each story is largely self-contained. Were Zhang’s debut a film, I would find myself searching for someone, maybe Yeye or Xiao Ann, in the background of other stories, questioning whether they were just a moment away from their paths crossing like the cobalt and salmon lines snaking their way across the front cover.
You can place a hold on your copy of the book by clicking on the cover below:
Hello! My name is Tom, and I am a librarian here at the Niagara Falls Public Library. Welcome to a recurring blog post that comes out the 5th of every month, where I answer five questions about a book in our collection.