Personally, I’m not a great fan of short stories. Perhaps it’s because I like big-picture things. But Jess Row’s short story collection THE TRAIN TO LO WU is a brilliant multi-faceted exploration of the multiple ways in which people can misunderstand one another. Especially in a place like Hong Kong, with its modern high-rises, churning capitalism and sea mists.
We learn about a Chinese girl who goes around blind-folded to experience the echo-location of bats, about a wife who drives her husband to a Buddhist retreat to shore up their marriage, about the gulf between a rich sophisticate and the alluring, yet crushed wallflower he tries to save, and about the idealistic young lawyer sent to deliver unpalatable news to an ex-pat.
In the strict sense of the term, this is not a linked collection of short stories, because none of the characters reappear. Yet the mood and content give one the feeling of circling round and round the similar issues of meeting and parting, of understanding and misunderstanding, and the thorny paths of knowledge, both self-knowledge and knowledge of others. Five stars. A bookclub recommendation.