This book struck me the same way BELOVED did. It was extremely odd, but still a compelling read. Almost mystical.
This novel was definitely odd, but mostly a fun odd.
I had read that the book was a retelling of The Wizard of Oz, with Sarah Canary cast as Dorothy. I love a good re-envisioning of a well-known tale (and I love the Oz books), so I happily tried to match up characters, figuring out who was supposed to be the wicked witch, scarecrow, tin woodsman, cowardly lion, etc. It's a very loose adaptation, but I can see the basic ideas. If I hadn't been searching for the Wizard of Oz parallels, I probably would not have made it through the entire book, as it often gets bogged down in the details.
Overall, I'm glad I read to the end. It was an interesting glimpse of life post-Civil War in the "Wild West" now known as the greater Seattle area and San Francisco. I particularly enjoyed the history snippets that were wedged between chapters of narrative. Sometimes the truth is as strange as the fiction.
I did not, however, enjoy the bits of Emily Dickinson poetry that started each chapter, as I can't stand Emily Dickinson...but that's just me.
Excellent, unusual book. Not of the mainstream variety, but a masterful read among the realms of offbeat literature. I could see how those who are looking for more pedestrian reading could misunderstand it.
Why does homesick Chinese railway worker Chin Ah Kin risk his life countless times in fevered pursuit of "the ugliest woman he could imagine?" Is Sarah Canary, the mute, misshapen object of Chin's confused affections, a vampire, an apparition, a shape-shifter, a feral child, a murderess? These are just a few of the intriguing questions that will keep readers turning the pages of this buoyant first novel set in and around the Washington territories in 1873. When Sarah Canary wanders into Chin's railway camp, his uncle orders him to escort her away. Far away. In the first of many such instances, the well-intentioned Chin misplaces her. When both resurface some days later at an insane asylum, Chin has run afoul of the law and Sarah has been committed for observation. Their escape from the asylum in the company of another inmate--BJ, a wonderfully drawn "sane" madman--sets into motion a series of adventures and misadventures at turns hilarious, deeply moving and downright terrifying. A picaresque romp that takes a good, long look into the human heart, this is a stunning debut.