Apologies Forthcoming
by Xujun Eberlein

Livingston Press, 2008. ISBN 978-1-60489-007-5.
Reviewed by Susan Andrus
Posted on 09/09/2008

Fiction: Multi-Cultural; Fiction: Historical

Everyday Chinese life and the Chinese Cultural Revolution clash in Xujun Eberlein's collection of short stories on love and loss. In "Snow Line," the author combines poems written by friends with her own prose to depict a love triangle. Shiao Su is torn between his romantic untouchable love for an artist who uses his poems in her art and his relationship with his fiancée. Unable to have both, Shiao Su struggles to maintain his equilibrium.

In "Feathers," ten-year old Sail learns lessons of life and death suitable for someone much older than herself. Her older sister, Jia, a Red Guard, dies during the Cultural Revolution. Trying to maintain the family's stability, Sail uses reality and fantasy to protect those who might not be able to handle the truth about her sister.

In "Pivot Point," the narrator, a brilliant woman who had "been caught in the epilogue" of the Cultural Revolution, leaving her too old or too intellectual for marriage, falls in love with a married man, Lambo ("the Chinese pronunciation of 'Rambo'"). They have an affair while waiting for his divorce which she realizes will never come. Her intelligence fails to help her solve this emotional dilemma.

Each short story provides readers with a clue to life before, during, and after the Cultural Revolution, a period of visible adjustment, while the yin and yang of relationships provide compelling underlying drama. Readers appreciating Apologies will wait longingly for the next book to appear by this engaging writer.

Xujun Eberlein grew up in Chongqing, China, moved to the United States in the summer of 1988, and holds a Ph.D. from MIT. Apologies Forthcoming won the 2007 Tartt Fiction Award and was published in June 2008. Eberlein received an artist fellowship in fiction/creative nonfiction from the Massachusetts Cultural Council. She lives with her husband and daughter in Wayland, Massachusetts. Visit her website.

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