3/5 Don Lee’s third novel traces the trajectory of three Asian-American friends who meet in college and pursue lives in the arts, together and apart, in the ensuing decade.
The friendship among narrator Eric Cho, siren-like visual artist Jessica Tsai and troubled writer Joshua Yoon is complex and frequently fraught. When a confluence of circumstances finds the three cohabiting in a Massachusetts household during the late ’90s, the intensity is ratcheted to nearly unbearable heights, abetted by the manipulative presence of Joshua.
Among an ensemble of colourful characters, Joshua is the novel’s most indelible creation. His is the sort of special talent and negative charisma around which a great deal of activity is generated, and eventually the trio find themselves founders of a thriving group of young Asian-American artists called the Collective. Their ambition is to upend common perceptions of Asian-Americans through art, and for a time it seems they might succeed. Timothy Bracy