Winner of Glimmer Train
Fiction Open 1st Prize
“This is a really excellent story, and if I'd finished it in 2015 instead of the first day of 2016 it would have been one of the best things I read last year. It's a touching, funny, but also deeply sad look at two strangers--a wounded Vietnam veteran and a woman who became obese overnight--who go into the Nevada desert to commit suicide, and find each other instead. The language is simple but also compelling and interesting, full extremely unconventional word usage (in the dialogue as well as the exposition) that melds with the pared down clarity of the writing to create this quirky, compulsively readable feel that's difficult to find a comparison for. Most of the sections are short, only a few paragraphs long, which keeps it moving very quickly; it's bound like a novella but reads as quick as a short story. One thing that's particularly impressive is it also won the Glimmer Train fiction contest--I've known about that contest for years but never known something so great could win.
The most interesting effect is watching the airy, comedic tone of the storytelling become deathly serious with the intrusion of heavy themes (abandonment; body-image; the effects of the Vietnam war) that play out in a way I really like. The flow of the narrative is sparse, full of deliberate moves that pass very quickly, but also very affecting--it was nice to feel emotionally engaged after reading so many other books recently that have left me cold. This is such a small story but it's also very large, and definitely fantastic. It's very different from the rest of Vi Khi Nao's work (which is more experimental and engaged with a broad project of prose/poetry hybridity) so it's not exactly a representative entrypoint to her work, but it's a fascinating and very successful digression in a more accessible direction her writing might possibly go again, even if it's not for a very long time. Essentially this what happens when a very talented writer of experimental fiction twists their back to work with more conventional narrative and succeeds--though of the course, the results are anything but conventional.” –Kyle Muntz