LAND OF BIG NUMBERS is the debut collection of short stories by Te-Ping Chen that compassionately portrays the uniqueness and complexity of life in modern China. With a blend of realism and surrealism, the ten stories provide sharp social commentary on China while giving a strong voice to the diverse Chinese people.
I loved that each story in LAND OF BIG NUMBERS was totally unique. Some of the stories focus on individuals and others on communities; some touch on rural poverty and others on metropolitan urban life; some center on Chinese Communist Party supporters and others on political dissidents; and some of the stories don’t even take place in China but are about life abroad for Chinese people. The stories do a wonderful job of depicting the Chinese experience while touching on universal themes like loss, connection, and striving for a better life.
Though I really enjoyed all of the stories, a few were more memorable than others. My absolute favorites were “New Fruit” – people become obsessed with a fruit that when eaten produces happiness but eventually sours– and “Gubeikou Spirit” – a group of people are trapped for months on a Beijing subway platform waiting for a train and wont leave without official permission. I found these two particularly interesting because they incorporated the most magical realism while still speaking to bigger issues of repression and state control in China.
LAND OF BIG NUMBERS is a great short story collection! Even though some stories were stronger than others, each one drew me in with their distinct characters, varied subjects, and compelling writing. These excellently crafted stories combine to create an entertaining and multifaceted depiction of life in China.
** Houghton Mifflin Harcourt provided the book for honest review
- Title: Land of Big Numbers
- Author: Te-Ping Chen
- Published: February 2, 2021 (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)
- Genre: Short Stories, Fiction, Magical Realism,
- Booky Nooky Rating: * * * *