Monday, August 4, 2008

The Foreigner by Francie Lin (a review)

4 out of 5: In the simplest terms, The Foreigner is a thriller about a second-generation Taiwanese-American who travels to Taiwan to extricate his brother from the violent criminal underworld of Taipei. It would be more accurate, however, to describe The Foreigner as a sensitive exploration of family relationships—an assimilated son to his immigrant mother, an American brother to his Taiwanese brother—wrapped in the guise of a thriller. This unique blend is fast-paced like a traditional thriller, but far more haunting on a personal level. Likewise, Lin’s prose is superior to that of the typical thriller, and her terse yet evocative style is reminiscent of a prose poem:

“A large, warty piece of galangal hung suspended in its matrix like an embryo, while a ceramic plat on the sideboard labored under ten tiers of lucky bamboo.”

“The streets looked deserted, loose garbage tumbling in the gutters, the convenience stores like remote white beacons in the chaotic dark.”
Although the plot occasionally loses its direction and certain loose ends are left hanging, the powerful ending makes up for the waywardness and delivers something substantial and lasting. Recommended, particularly for those who enjoy thrillers.

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