Home Remedies by Xuan Juliana Wang

Xuan Juliana Wang's debut story collection is a soulful grouping of Beijing-based coming of age tales

Book Review by Laura Waddell | 31 May 2019
  • Home Remedies by Xuan Juliana Wang
Book title: Home Remedies
Author: Xuan Juliana Wang

Most stories in Xuan Juliana Wang’s first collection go deep enough to really feel the anxieties of protagonists who skew young, troubled by the constraints of money whether rich or poor, and living between Beijing and America. A common strand across several stories is the push-pull factor between meeting expectations of parents and following the desire to behave freely, live young and fast, and drift aimlessly between pleasures of cars, alcohol, and life on the edges of buzzing social scenes.

In opening story Mott Street in July, three children are left in an apartment alone after first their father, and then mother, leave to fulfil a life outside of parental obligations. In White Tiger of the West, a young man hires a disappointingly small convention centre to establish himself as a spiritual leader, told from the perspective of a young girl whose parents run a travel agency, and who has never forgotten the odd stranger who boasted of killing a white tiger with his bare hands in front of a sceptical crowd filling up a handful of chairs.

Studded with poetic lines ('He wanted to be someone who saw the ocean from the sky'), Home Remedies is full of soulful, Beijing-based coming of age stories for an older millennial crowd, putting off the responsibilities (or ramifications) of adulthood for as long as possible, searching for a sense of meaning in the meantime. [Laura Waddell]

Atlantic Books, 6 Jun, £12.99