Transparency: Stories

Published By: Back Bay Books

Book Category: Fiction, Short Stories

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Reviewed by Sarah van Ingen

Transparency is Frances Hwang's debut collection of short stories. While her writing is a bit rough around the edges, there is no mistaking that she has a passion, and a talent, for telling the human story.

In many of Transparency's stories, the mechanics of writing are not that strong. Word choice is at times awkward, leaving the reader mystified (instead of surprised) by what the characters are doing. In several stories, the protagonist seems to be no different than in the previous story, and the reader wonders if there isn't really a novel lying beneath the surface of the collection.

The two notable exceptions to this weakness are the title story, Transparency, and the final story, "The Garden City." Here, the characters leap off the page and sear themselves into the reader's memory. Overall, these two short stories are far superior to the rest of the collection and will surely find their way into anthologies. These two stories are proof that we are being entertained by a writer of enormous talent, and I was left hoping that Hwang will continue writing.

Regardless of the mechanical weaknesses, the territory that Hwang covers in each of her stories is deep and rich and worth contemplating. As an entirety, this collection speaks to themes of identity and relationship. The reader ponders the connections between isolation and intimacy, family and friend, lover and stranger. The juxtaposition of generational gaps and generational ties is also beautifully laid out in this collection. Often, the backdrop to these themes is the tension between first- and second-generation immigrants and between Eastern and Western cultures.

Hwang's writing shows that she has the courage to write about the human story, even in its naked weakness. She does well writing about how life is instead of how it ought to be.

Armchair Interviews says: This book will leave you pondering some of the more meaningful and painful aspects of being a daughter, a friend, a lover, a stranger--of being human.

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