What an astonishing book! Beautiful, original, with delicious surprises lurking at the heart of sentences, of events, of all the engines of communication.
THE STRANGERS is like a cabinet of curiosities put together by Georges Perec and Andrei Biely, hilarious and utterly seductive, a sharp commentary on the social and political architecture we cling to at our peril. And yet, while pulling the rug out from under the reader, Eugene Lim’s book is a total pleasure.
Beautifully written, so precise and accurate to real life that it is (fantastically) convincing, Eugene Lim’s THE STRANGERS, with its multiple interwoven strands, reveals one surprising character and relationship after the next, and culminates in a skilfully devised and satisfying resolution. A fascinating and engrossing tale.
To place the storytelling act at the center of a novel is a risky strategy: the stories must fascinate. Lim’s stories do (except those few that he deliberately effaces as if to give a graphic representation of self-erasure). They have the exoticism, emotional authenticity, and intellectual depth to ensure that the reader will be enthralled.
–Norman Lock in the Review of Contemporary Fiction
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Fog & Car
JIM FOG IS MAROONED in a small Midwest town shortly after his divorce, succumbing to purposelessness and nostalgia. His ex, Sarah Car, has moved to New York City with the ambition of skipping over any mourning for their marriage. An old friend, ignorant himself of his action’s consequences, enables Fog and Car to move through and haunt each other’s lives. Eventually Fog and Car chase this friend, who is disguised to both of them, and the momentum of that chase pushes the two characters out of their static life-cages towards different unreal conclusions.
Fog & Car begins with the alternating voices and perspectives of a Mr Fog and a Ms Car. Eventually this symbolic dialectic—which examines a tension in the novel’s tradition, the engineered ride of some narratives versus the associative cloud of others—collapses. The narrative’s shifting styles finally find an equilibrium in a troubled and subversive escapism.
Praise for FOG & CAR
In this astonishing, assured first novel Eugene Lim intertwines elegant poetics with a fantastic plot, rife with love, mystery, malaise, and the supernatural. His gift for ingenious, startling permutations of language and plot make for a memorable, mesmerizing read. It was hard for me to put Fog and Car down; harder for me to stop thinking about.
The events of this novel take place in a space contrary to action, illuminating the silences of the page and the nothing that haunts the borders of “doing something.” A beautifully paced and thoughtful work.
In Fog & Car Eugene Lim scalpels deep into the loneliness of coupledom, into divorce, into obsession and stalking, into casual hookups, into homoerotic shocks. The book slowly heats its duos until they come to a rolling boil, blistering out surprises and unexpected complexities. Mr. Lim is definitely a writer to watch.
In Fog & Car, Eugene Lim renders the uncanny convergences of the lives of partners and strangers in a language entirely new. This is a deep, engulfing novel of breathtaking, even spooking precision—an altogether heady and heart-shaking debut.
Reviews for FOG & CAR
In this debut novel documenting the aftermath of a shattered marriage — its disintegration evident in the artifacts of memory and loss strewn across an abandoned landscape — Eugene Lim doesn’t as much collect and catalogue the fragments of lives shared, as artfully piece them into a puzzle reflective of players whose moves were induced by seemingly inconsequent forces… [A] phenomenal ability to nestle revelatory gems in the corners of his muscular text.
Eugene Lim’s impressive debut novel… has the shape of a long turnpike that runs into an urban snarl of on and off ramps. Suddenly every incidental thread of the early, gently-paced narrative knots up into a supernatural tangle of a plot—souls are exchanged, coincidences multiply… To defy novelistic conventions is easy enough. The difficulty comes in custom-building new forms for a story, and new stories for these new forms. Suiting the action to the word and the word to the action is no easy feat, but it is one that Lim has achieved with his first tragicomic novel.
FOG & CAR is a strange amalgam of several ideas, it begins with a dissolved marriage from which both ends begin to branch and splinter and spread back into each other in weird ways. I was surprised to be so captivated by a book about a ruined marriage, which it is only on the surface, what it really is is a puzzle and a book of worming forms, sometimes the tense shifts or lines are layered and/or repeated, there is a lot of subtle innovation, refreshing… FOG & CAR is new in familiar ways and familiar in new ways, and altogether a thing that turned my mind on in such a mode that I could not turn it off.
Lim peels relentlessly at his story’s realism until it tugs loose, revealing much stranger happenings underneath… a disturbing mystery pitched somewhere between Mulholland Drive and City of Glass… [I]t never loses its appealing initial tone of aching loneliness, even as its characters and its goings-on grow increasingly supernatural.
How Lim manages to negotiate the reversals, to maintain believability, to take the reader with him, is only part of his success, for it is, ironically, the story’s lack of resolution that brings satisfaction… It balances, albeit in a detached tone, compassionate depictions of moral dissolution with Murakami-styled fabulist plot departures, dramatic reversals, and coincidental connections. It leaves the reader with a balled up jumble of narrative threads, but in such a sophisticated and befuddling manner as to force Murakami’s own mind into a tailspin. Fog & Car is an extraordinary debut.
Read an excerpt.
Review on Goodreads.