Sometimes a book draws you in like a lucid dream. You smell, hear, touch; you see everything before your eyes but printed words on a page. This was the journey I took in Locke 1928, guided by the masterful storytelling of Shawna Yang Ryan. The pages are filled with Chinese folklore, moving flashbacks, and a vivid attention to detail. The narrow streets lined with Old West-style wooden buildings harbor lost souls, broken dreams, and the possibility of ghosts. When three Chinese women float to shore on a dilapidated boat after having been adrift at sea for over a month, the men of the town line up to woo them. The madame of the local brothel begins having visions she takes as a warning. The pastor's wife, the only "whitewoman" in town who isn't a prostitute, takes two of the women under her wing, and it could be a big mistake.
Locke 1928 reveals a real town in the Sacramento Delta very few Americans have heard of. The first town in America built by the Chinese for the Chinese, the city of Locke still exists today, and looks much the same as when it was first built in 1915. I was fascinated by the pictures on the city's website because Locke looks just as Ryan portrayed it in her writing. In fact, Ryan's seven years of obvious hard work on this book gives it such realism it feels as if she walked in the shoes of each and every character herself.
Locke 1928 is breathtakingly haunting. I've ingested the characters and will carry them with me, and for this reason, I am giving Ryan's first novel the carp(e) libris Goldfish Award. A completely moving work worth reading, without a doubt. If you have a to-be-read list, this one must be placed at the top.
Published by El Leon Literary Arts.
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