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A Quitter's Paradise

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Her unique story intertwines with others of Chinese immigrants looking for a chance in America, the struggles they had to face during their lives and their choices. We mostly examine this from the perspective of how hurts women - either self-inflicted or by partaking in social conventions like marriage, having children, where it doesn't seem to inflict as much damage on their male counterparts. Eleanor was the most interesting character in all of this, as the background noise of her family’s immigration only makes what is happening to her—and the family—as a whole even sadder. Or do we love by trying, by shaping and forming, conforming, and reforming, failing and trying again?

In 2013 New York City, Eleanor Liu is on track to fulfill her late mother Rita’s low expectations, having dropped out of a neuroscience graduate program to work in her classmate-turned-husband’s lab. The narrative alternates between a past and present timeline, with the present one told from Eleanor’s first person perspective, covering her adult life where she and her husband Ellis are both scientists working on their PhDs. Eleanor Liu is a “chronic avoider”—she runs from every difficulty life presents, but how long can she outrun grief?Throughout the book, we readers watch Eleanor make impulsive decisions that she can’t even understand or explain to herself. These works have been published in Center for Fiction Magazine , Fence , GQ , The Rumpus , and others. In the months following her mother’s death, Eleanor makes increasingly risky and bizarre choices, such as spending unsanctioned time with a primate from the lab, before decamping for her childhood home in New Jersey, where she goes through Rita’s belongings and begins to grasp a greater sense of her life. An impromptu celebration on the beach at sunset with champagne becomes a weekly touchpoint to their lives as they learn more about each other and themselves. She ends up pregnant after quitting the program, but their marriage seems to be rocky from the fact he simply gets everything and she struggles.

Finally, Eleanor is in a dissatisfying relationship with a white man – who she herself describes as condescending – and then this dissatisfying relationship is never addressed, she just persists in it? I saved so many piercing quotes from this book that I’ll be referring back to, and I can’t wait for this book to find its readers. I had serious mixed feelings toward this book, with regard to both the story arc and the characters. In Eleanor and her family, Elysha Chang has created captivating characters, who continuously surprised, delighted, and intrigued me—so much so that I didn’t want to leave them. It’s understandable that a teen would lie to gain her parents approval but why is Eleanor behaving the same way at 25 years old?

The Liu's family rhythm is seared with absences, mistrust, discipline and expectations - exposing all the family's fractures. A QUITTER’S PARADISE by Elysha Chang is a novel that follows Eleanor, the daughter of Taiwanese immigrants, as she quits her neuroscience PhD program, engages in sketchy behavior as a lab tech, cares for her mother during her mother’s dying days, wrestles with ambiguous feelings towards her (white) husband, and reflects on the complicated turmoil of her childhood and family life. This isn’t the worst book I have ever read—the author does have talent at writing—but it’s down there in the bottom fifteen percent. This book is still in a different vein, though, as it is primarily about grief and trying to overcome the obstacles of immigration and attempting to find the American Dream for one Taiwanese family. If the son (who remains unnamed) will only read Lito’s letters, he will gain this terrific inside scoop.

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