Several weeks ago I read a book review of Qiu Xiaolong’s latest book. The review was written by Jess Row. At the bottom of the review, Row’s bio mentioned he’s the author of The Train to Lo Wu (Dial Press, 2006). I hadn’t heard of the book, but I was quite familiar with the train. So I put it on my list and read it last week.
Before I even started the book, I turned to the acknowledgments page, as I always do, and learned that Row had taught at my grad school alma mater just after I finished there.
But enough about me. For having lived in Hong Kong for only two years, Row gets its. The Train to Lo Wu is packed with stories of interpersonal relationships between the different players in Hong Kong, with a sprinkle of Buddhism mixed in for added flavor.
The eponymous story follows a Hong Kong Chinese man’s love affair with a mainland women in Shenzhen, the city just north of the China-Hong Kong border. Row’s Shenzhen is full of touts, barbershops, high end shopping, Second Wives Village, factory dormitories, and five star hotels. He does a great job in capturing the wild west element of this border city and the lonely people who inhabit it.
Row also writes about an expat couple who find themselves drifting apart in Hong Kong; a blind masseuse who suffered during the Cultural Revolution; an expat and Polish Buddhist nun; two African American lawyers who find themselves in Hong Kong; a young Hong Kong Chinese girl whose mother committed suicide; and a widower who is left to raise his two young daughters on his own.
With each story, I always wished for more. If Row publishes a novel, I’ll be sure to read it, too.