This book, which won the 2015 PEN/Faulkner award for fiction, is Lish’s debut novel. A profoundly sad story of a young Muslim illegal immigrant from China and a veteran the Afghanistan war suffering from PTSD, it leaves the reader with no hope of a happy ending.
Happy endings are sometimes overrated, and as the book wends its way to the inevitable sad ending, it leaves the reader with a sense of satisfaction and hope. Zou Lei is the stronger of the two lovers. A member of a Muslim sect in China, she is used to being on the fringes. Nevertheless, a core of steel will not allow her to give up. In spite of everything she continues to struggle. Skinner, the war vet, has had his core destroyed by the war. The two unlikely lovers struggle to keep their love alive in the face of overwhelming odds.
The writing is luminous, and that is what kept me reading to the end, long past the time I had given up hope for the couple. The world is against them, and they simply lack the skills to cope with the challenges they face.