Mswas’ CBR-III Review #6 – Take Me Home by Brian Leung01/23/2011
Take Me Home by Brian Leung is a good solid book, not without flaws, but entertaining till the end. It’s set in Wyoming in 1927 as Adele “Addie” Maine is returning to a small coal-mining town where she’d lived 40 years ago. Back in the 1880’s, she followed her brother, Tommy, to this town to join him on his homestead, but she hadn’t been back since the riot, since Addie had been shot. Would she finally be able to face the man she believes was the shooter?
The town of Dire was a rough little town with its population made of Chinese miners and other immigrants. The animosity between the Chinese and the other men was thick and simmered just below the surface of every interaction. After seeing a Chinese man on the train platform, Tommy sets her straight:
“Don’t have no dealings with them if you can help it. They’ll shake on a bargain with one hand and pick your pocket with the other. One talks to you, just walk away, and don’t be like old Lot’s wife.”
By the time we’ve gotten to this passage though, we’ve already found out that the residents of Dire had attacked the Chinese, and a riot had broken out and Addie had been shot during it. We’ve also learned that she had a very good friend named Wing Lee and that she hadn’t seen him since the riot 40 years ago. Addie also hopes to find out what happened to Wing and if he is dead or alive.
Leung transitions back and forth in time from the “present” day of 1927, to when Addie first arrived in Dire, to the time of the riots in an uneven fashion. Within one chapter, several different pieces of the story could be revealed in each of the three points in time. I found this disconcerting once or twice, but as a whole I can now see how this could be the perspective of an old woman visiting a place with such vivid memories.
These transitions are not completely all over the place, but Addie’s reminiscing is also juxtaposed with sections from Wing’s point of view and sometimes within the same chapter. This works though because due to their language and societal barriers, they aren’t always able to share their true feelings. In fact, when they first meet, Wing does not divulge that he speaks English. He does, eventually, and their friendship and trust grows.
Leung is an effective writer, and his description of the small, coal-mining town is vivid. Addie’s memories are also poignant, with a nice moment of her as a young girl coming to terms with the death of her grandmother. I would recommend this book even though it is imperfect.