Sightseeing by Rattawut Lapcharoensap

This is my favorite kind of book to tell you about! I found this book randomly by browsing the shelves at my library. What this tells me is that I should do this more often, because this book was amazing.

Even though I always say that I like short stories, I didn’t read any short story collections last year. I was wary of this collection, but it ended up reminding me how wonderful the short form can be. If you don’t like a story (which only happened once with this collection), it is short! You can move on! On the other side of that, though, is that you often find yourself leaving a character before you are ready. Lapcharoensap walks this line expertly. The stories always ended just when I thought they should.

All the stories in the collection Sightseeing take place in Thailand, but each story follows a very different sort of person. Most of the stories are about families, about the joys and pain that families bring into our lives. Though I have read books that take place in Thailand, I have never read a book by a Thai author (Lapcharoensap was actually born in the US, but grew up in Bangkok and came back to the US for college). It was an excellent experience and gave me the idea to read books by authors from every country in the world (eventually). It’s such a different, important perspective and one of the greatest powers of literature that allows us to travel the world this way.

This was a great way to start 2011. There was only one story that I didn’t particularly like, but it was still a good story. I just didn’t connect to the narrator as much as I did the rest of the time. This is a short book and each story, except for an almost novella-length story at the end, is short as well. I can’t recommend this collection enough.

Favorite quotes:

“One night I caught Ma staring at the bedroom mirror with an astonished look on her face, as if she no longer recognized her own sallow reflection.  It seemed Pa’s death had made our mother a curious spectator of her own life, though when I think of her now I wonder if she was simply waiting for us to notice her grief.  But we were just children, Anek and I, and when children learn to acknowledge the gravity of their loved ones’ sorrows they’re no longer children.” (31)

“Jack leads Tida to the dance floor. They’re the only people out there. It seems the whole place is watching them. Everybody looks up to watch my son – this tall, foreign man – dancing with his Thai wife. It’s a slow Thai song and another couple, both Thai, join them on the floor, the lights from the mirror ball sweeping back and forth. Jack’s holding his wife close. They’re smiling at each other like there’s so much love between them they don’t know what to do with it. I’m a little embarrassed; I don’t really want to look, though I can’t take my eyes off them. I’m sucking on my beer, thinking how you never get used to seeing your child’s romantic side, when I look around and see some of the men under the tent snickering in Jack’s direction. I notice, too, that the women are talking to one another sternly, peering at Jack and his wife. I can tell by the way they look at her that t hey think Tida’s some kind of prostitute and suddenly I’m proud of them both for being out there dancing,  proud of my boy Jack for holding his wife so close, because their love suddenly seems for the first time like something courageous and worthwhile, and I’m thinking: There he is, Alice. There’s your boy. There’s our little man.” (152)

So go read  this!: now | tomorrow | next week | next month | next year | when you’ve exhausted your TBR

Lotus Reads has also published a post about Sightseeing.  Have you? Link to the post in the comments and I’ll add it to this list.

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11 thoughts on “Sightseeing by Rattawut Lapcharoensap

  1. Isn’t finding books that way – simply by browsing – great? I’m often on a mission when I go to the library, and I do not deviate from my list. But sometimes I browse spines and covers, and sometimes I get really wild and pick an aisle, wander down it running my hand along the books, stop randomly, and take whatever book my fingers are touching. I’ve found some great books by browsing, and obviously you have, too!

    1. I think that’s really what drew me to this book. The cover is beautiful. That picture doesn’t even do it justice, the brownish parts are actually shiny gold!

  2. Oh, Lu. This book sounds wonderful. I have missed browsing the library shelves because I always have so many books on hold that I know I will never get to read them all. This year I have vowed to change that.

  3. I love short story collections, and am so glad you posted on one written by someone from Thailand! I’ll add this to my TBR.

    I should also maybe browse the library. It sounds like playing the lottery, though!

  4. I love finding books randomly at the library, but it’s much more common for me to pick up a book at the library and then end up hating it, unfortunately. I’ve read almost nothing set in Thailand or by Thai authors — I should do! My uncle’s family lived in Thailand for years, and they’re always going back there to visit. One of these days perhaps they will take me. 😀

  5. Wow that’s a difficult name. Was wondering where he/she was from before I read your post. I really liked that last quote, so I’m gonna keep the book in mind. I don’t like picking random books off the library as there are too many books on my list that I want to read. I used to do that before but felt like they kept me off “the books that matter” a bit longer, so now I stick to my list. But good that it works for you! 😀

  6. I’m so glad to see this post! I came across this one in my library catalogue, but I wasn’t sure if I’d like it or not. Now I definitely want to give it a go!

  7. What a pretty cover!

    I love short story collections, and you make this one sound fabulous. Plus, I don’t think I’ve ever read anything by a Thai author before. I’ll have to check it out. 🙂

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