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October 3, 2012 / Leslie

Review & Giveaway: What the Zhang Boys Know by Clifford Garstang

What the Zhang Boys Know by Clifford GarstangWhat the Zhang Boys Know
A Novel in Stories
by Clifford Garstang

Genre: Short Stories
Publisher: Press 53
Publish Date: October 1, 2012
Format: Paperback | 218 pages
Rating: 4½ of 5

The Zhang boys, young Simon and Wesley, live with their father, Feng-qi, in the Nanking Mansion, a 12-unit condominium building in the Washington, DC area near Chinatown. Zhang Feng-qi is a widower; his American wife was recently killed in a car accident. Although none of their parents approved of their marriage, his father has moved here from China and his mother-in-law has just arrived for a visit to help with the boys. The boys believe their mother is coming back; Feng-qi is searching for a replacement wife.

The book is composed of twelve short stories, each centering around one of the residents of the building. They are a diverse group of people brought vividly to life in their pain, sorrow and longings. While each of them are flawed, they are also sympathetic, well-drawn characters. The writing was beautiful. The stories came alive. The shifting viewpoints and changes in writing style as we heard from the different individuals enhanced the reading experience.

In A Hole in the Wall we meet a young attorney as he takes a sledge hammer to a wall, ostensibly to begin construction on a balcony, but really to dull the pain of his failed marriage. There is the painter in The Face in the Window, who is haunted by a face in one of his paintings, an image from the past. In Hunger, a woman’s lifelong irresponsible behavior leaves her penniless and she must sell her possessions to survive. In The Replacement Wife we meet the young woman who Feng-qi hopes will become his new wife and mother to his children, but she hasn’t told him that she is unable to have children of her own. We also meet the sculptor, the writer, the gay couple, the building owner and the young couple renting the front unit from an owner who will expectantly return, each with their own story, each a part of the whole.

I enjoy short stories, especially those that are interconnected by characters or theme. While each of these stories could stand on their own, they are part of a novel. There are threads through each story that tie them together and weave them into one tale. Over a period of a year’s time we observe the neighbors interact with each other, some in the most unlikely ways. And through each story the Zhang boys are ever-present and know something about each resident.

I know some of my readers are not fond of short stories, but this is more like a novel because of the way the characters interact with each other. If a book has a beginning and an end, it’s a novel. The last story, The Shrine to His Ancestors, gives us resolution for Feng-qi; and while I would like to know what ultimately happened to the other residents of Nanking Mansion, that is left to our imagination.

About the Author

Clifford Garstang is the author of the prize-winning short story collection In an Uncharted Country (Press53, 2009). His work has appeared in numerous literary magazines including Bellevue Literary Journal, Blackbird, Cream City Review, Shenandoah, Tampa Review, and Virginia Quarterly Review, and has received Distinguished Mention in the Best American Series. He has received fellowships from the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, Kimmel Harding Nelson Center for the Arts, and the Sewanee Writers’ Conference. He holds an MFA in Fiction from Queens University of Charlotte and is the co-founder and editor of Prime Number Magazine. He is also the author of the popular literary blog Perpetual Folly.

Visit the author’s website, the publisher’s website.
Purchase the book at Amazon or from an Indie Book Store.
Click HERE for the tour schedule.

A Giveaway

The publisher has generously offered a copy to give away to one of my readers. If you would like to be entered in the drawing let me know in the comments. US/Canada only, no PO Boxes. I will choose one random winner on Sunday, October 28th. Winner will be notified by email and will have 48 hours to respond with a mailing address.
[Contest has now ended. Winner: windicindi]

Source: Review copy.
© 2012 Under My Apple Tree. All rights reserved.


Leave a Comment
  1. sagustocox / Oct 3 2012 4:49 am

    I love short story collections, and this one sounds so intriguing. Thanks for the review! Popped the giveaway in my sidebar as I do…have a great week.


  2. Liene / Oct 3 2012 7:48 am

    Please count me in! Sounds like an intriguing read!


  3. therelentlessreader / Oct 3 2012 9:48 am

    Sounds like a good one, especially since the stories are connected like that. Thanks for the opportunity. I’ll go tweet about it now too 🙂


  4. Suz Reads / Oct 3 2012 10:38 am

    I love short stories and this sounds like such an interesting collection! Thanks for this amazing giveaway – I would love to win this book!


  5. windicindi / Oct 3 2012 11:40 am

    What an interesting concept…I would love to read the short story form of
    characters in the book!
    Many thanks, Cindi


  6. carlrscott / Oct 3 2012 1:20 pm

    Short story collections are some of my personal favorite book and this one sounds very interesting indeed. I’d certainly be interested in winning a copy. Please enter my name in the draw. Thanks.


  7. Suko / Oct 3 2012 10:15 pm

    Leslie, thank you for hosting this giveaway. I am a fan of short stories, and short story collections are often terrific. I enjoy the “slices of life” and sundry characters in short stories. I’ll post this giveaway in my blog’s sidebar.


    Thanks again! The scenarios you present seem like excellent premises for short fiction.


  8. debbierodgers / Oct 4 2012 6:49 am

    I love a collection of short stories that are interconnected. This is a new setting to me, as well, so sounds like a really interesting book! Thanks for the chance to win.


  9. Beth F / Oct 5 2012 7:29 am

    I’m going to pass on the giveaway, but I do much better with interconnected short stories than I do with standalones, I’ll at least keep this one in mind.


  10. Heather J. @ TLC / Oct 7 2012 2:00 pm

    I love the idea of a novel in short stories – it combines the “wholeness” of a novel with the sharp focus of a short story.

    Sounds like this book was a definite winner for you. Thanks for being on the tour!


  11. Anita Yancey / Oct 8 2012 9:47 am

    I really enjoy reading short stories. Please enter me. Thanks!



  12. Mary Siller / Oct 11 2012 1:11 pm

    Thank you for hosting the give away.


  13. stacybuckeye / Oct 13 2012 7:35 pm

    I’m not much of a short story fan, but I do like when they are interconnected. I’d love to be entered.


  14. Daniel M / Oct 28 2012 7:36 pm

    I would like to be entered in the drawing – regnod(at)yahoo(d0t)com



  1. Under My Apple Tree reviews What the Zhang Boys Know | Clifford Garstang
  2. Clifford Garstang, author of What the Zhang Boys Know, on tour October 2012 | TLC Book Tours
  3. Mailbox Monday and It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? « Under My Apple Tree
  4. Book Review - WHAT THE ZHANG BOYS KNOW by Clifford Garstang
  5. Review: What the Zhang Boys Know by Clifford Garstang « I'm Booking It

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