On Such A Full Sea: A Novel

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On Such A Full Sea: A Novel

by Chang-rae Lee

Penguin Publishing Group | January 7, 2014 | Hardcover

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“Watching a talented writer take a risk is one of the pleasures of devoted reading, and On Such a Full Sea provides all that and more. . . . With On Such a Full Sea, [Chang-rae Lee] has found a new way to explore his old preoccupation: the oft-told tale of the desperate, betraying, lonely human heart.”—Andrew Sean Greer, The New York Times Book Review

“I''ve never been a fan of grand hyperbolic declarations in book reviews, but faced with On Such a Full Sea, I have no choice but to ask: Who is a greater novelist than Chang-rae Lee today?”—Porochista Khakpour, The Los Angeles Times

From the beloved award-winning author of Native Speaker and The Surrendered, a highly provocative, deeply affecting story of one woman’s legendary quest in a shocking, future America.


On Such a Full Sea takes Chang-rae Lee’s elegance of prose, his masterly storytelling, and his long-standing interests in identity, culture, work, and love, and lifts them to a new plane. Stepping from the realistic and historical territories of his previous work, Lee brings us into a world created from scratch. Against a vividly imagined future America, Lee tells a stunning, surprising, and riveting story that will change the way readers think about the world they live in.

In a future, long-declining America, society is strictly stratified by class. Long-abandoned urban neighborhoods have been repurposed as highwalled, self-contained labor colonies. And the members of the labor class—descendants of those brought over en masse many years earlier from environmentally ruined provincial China—find purpose and identity in their work to provide pristine produce and fish to the small, elite, satellite charter villages that ring the labor settlement.

In this world lives Fan, a female fish-tank diver, who leaves her home in the B-Mor settlement (once known as Baltimore), when the man she loves mysteriously disappears. Fan’s journey to find him takes her out of the safety of B-Mor, through the anarchic Open Counties, where crime is rampant with scant governmental oversight, and to a faraway charter village, in a quest that will soon become legend to those she left behind.

Format: Hardcover

Dimensions: 368 pages, 9.3 × 6.32 × 1.25 in

Published: January 7, 2014

Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group

Language: English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10: 1594486107

ISBN - 13: 9781594486104

Found in: Fiction and Literature

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– More About This Product –

On Such A Full Sea: A Novel

by Chang-rae Lee

Format: Hardcover

Dimensions: 368 pages, 9.3 × 6.32 × 1.25 in

Published: January 7, 2014

Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group

Language: English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10: 1594486107

ISBN - 13: 9781594486104

Read from the Book

IT IS KNOWN WHERE WE COME FROM, BUT NO ONE MUCH cares about things like that anymore. We think, Why bother? Except for a lucky few, everyone is from someplace, but that someplace, it turns out, is gone. You can search it, you can find pix or vids that show what the place last looked like, in our case a gravel-colored town of stoop-shouldered buildings on a riverbank in China, shorn hills in the distance. Rooftops a mess of wires and junk. The river tea-still, a swath of black. And blunting it all is a haze that you can almost smell, a smell, you think, you don’t want to breathe in. So what does it matter if the town was razed one day, after our people were trucked out? What difference does it make that there’s almost nothing there now? It was on the other side of the world, which might as well be a light-year away. Though probably it was mourned when it was thriving. People are funny that way; even the most miserable kind of circumstance can inspire a genuine throb of nostalgia. The blood was pumping, yes? Weren’t we alive! You can bet that where we live now was mourned, too, in its time, and though it may be surprising to consider, someday this community might be remembered as an excellent place, even by those of us who recognize its shortcomings. But we don’t wish to dwell on the unhappier details. Most would agree that any rational person would leap at the chance of living here in B-Mor, given what it’s like out there, beyond the walls. In the
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From the Publisher

“Watching a talented writer take a risk is one of the pleasures of devoted reading, and On Such a Full Sea provides all that and more. . . . With On Such a Full Sea, [Chang-rae Lee] has found a new way to explore his old preoccupation: the oft-told tale of the desperate, betraying, lonely human heart.”—Andrew Sean Greer, The New York Times Book Review

“I''ve never been a fan of grand hyperbolic declarations in book reviews, but faced with On Such a Full Sea, I have no choice but to ask: Who is a greater novelist than Chang-rae Lee today?”—Porochista Khakpour, The Los Angeles Times

From the beloved award-winning author of Native Speaker and The Surrendered, a highly provocative, deeply affecting story of one woman’s legendary quest in a shocking, future America.


On Such a Full Sea takes Chang-rae Lee’s elegance of prose, his masterly storytelling, and his long-standing interests in identity, culture, work, and love, and lifts them to a new plane. Stepping from the realistic and historical territories of his previous work, Lee brings us into a world created from scratch. Against a vividly imagined future America, Lee tells a stunning, surprising, and riveting story that will change the way readers think about the world they live in.

In a future, long-declining America, society is strictly stratified by class. Long-abandoned urban neighborhoods have been repurposed as highwalled, self-contained labor colonies. And the members of the labor class—descendants of those brought over en masse many years earlier from environmentally ruined provincial China—find purpose and identity in their work to provide pristine produce and fish to the small, elite, satellite charter villages that ring the labor settlement.

In this world lives Fan, a female fish-tank diver, who leaves her home in the B-Mor settlement (once known as Baltimore), when the man she loves mysteriously disappears. Fan’s journey to find him takes her out of the safety of B-Mor, through the anarchic Open Counties, where crime is rampant with scant governmental oversight, and to a faraway charter village, in a quest that will soon become legend to those she left behind.

About the Author

Chang-rae Lee is the author of Native Speaker, winner of the Hemingway Foundation/PEN/Hemingway Award for first fiction; A Gesture Life; Aloft; and The Surrendered, winner of the Dayton Peace Prize and a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. Selected by The New Yorker as one of the “20 Writers for the 21st Century,” Chang-rae Lee is Professor professor in the Lewis Center for the Arts at Princeton University and the a Shinhan Distinguished Visiting Professor at Yonsei University.

Editorial Reviews

“Watching a talented writer take a risk is one of the pleasures of devoted reading, and On Such a Full Sea provides all that and more. . . . Lee has always been preoccupied by the themes of hope and betrayal, by the tensions that arise in small lives in the midst of great social change. His marvelous new book, which imagines a future after the breakdown of our own society takes on those concerns with his customary mastery of quiet detail—and a touch of the fantastic. . . . With On Such a Full Sea , he has found a new way to explore his old preoccupation: the oft-told tale of the desperate, betraying, lonely human heart.”—Andrew Sean Greer, The New York Times Book Review “I''ve never been a fan of grand hyperbolic declarations in book reviews, but faced with On Such a Full Sea , I have no choice but to ask: Who is a greater novelist than Chang-rae Lee today?”—Porochista Khakpour, The Los Angeles Times "“If you loved Never Let Me Go, you should read Chang-rae Lee’s new novel.”— Slate “In his latest and boldest novel, On Such a Full Sea , Lee’s characters are Chinese immigrant workers in the United States—specifically Chinese workers from a long-elapsed China toiling in a fast-declining America a century or so from now. For Lee’s heroine, Fan, the issue is not acclimatization but self-discovery. The adventures of this feisty yet wary protagonist, together with a bleak but arresting vision o
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Bookclub Guide

INTRODUCTION

On Such a Full Sea takes Chang-rae Lee''s elegance of prose, his masterly storytelling, and his long-standing interests in identity, culture, work, and love, and lifts them to a new plane. Stepping from the realistic and historical territories of his previous work, Lee brings us into a world created from scratch. Against a vividly imagined future America, Lee tells a stunning, surprising, and riveting story that will change the way readers think about the world they live in.

In a future, long-declining America, society is strictly stratified by class. Long-abandoned urban neighborhoods have been repurposed as highwalled, self-contained labor colonies. And the members of the labor class-descendants of those brought over en masse many years earlier from environmentally ruined provincial China-find purpose and identity in their work to provide pristine produce and fish to the small, elite, satellite charter villages that ring the labor settlement.

In this world lives Fan, a female fish-tank diver, who leaves her home in the B-Mor settlement (once known as Baltimore), when the man she loves mysteriously disappears. Fan''s journey to find him takes her out of the safety of B-Mor, through the anarchic Open Counties, where crime is rampant with scant governmental oversight, and to a faraway charter village, in a quest that will soon become legend to those she left behind.


ABOUT CHANG-RAE LEE

Chang-rae Lee is the author of Native Speaker, winner of the Hemingway Foundation/PEN/Hemingway Award for first fiction; A Gesture Life; Aloft; and The Surrendered, winner of the Dayton Peace Prize and a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. Selected by The New Yorker as one of the “20 Writers for the 21st Century,” Chang-rae Lee is Professor professor in the Lewis Center for the Arts at Princeton University and the a Shinhan Distinguished Visiting Professor at Yonsei University.


DISCUSSION QUESTIONS
  • The novel is narrated by a collective voice of B-Mor residents, telling the story of Fan from a distance of some years. Why do you think the author chose to narrate the book this way? What does the collective narration add to the book? How might it read differently if it had been told as a much closer third-person narration? What if it had been told by Fan herself?

  • How does the author implicitly explain this narrator''s ability to describe events that happened beyond the physical limits of B-Mor?

  • Legend and storytelling are major themes in the story itself-from the legend of Fan as it is narrated by the collective B-Mor residents to (within that larger story) the story Quig tells Fan about his past, the tale that Fan has heard about the brother she never really knew, and the stories represented on the murals of the kept girls in the charter village. Do these stories have anything in common with one another, either in their telling or their effect on their audience? What about the stories'' effect on the tellers themselves? What do you think the author is saying about the nature of storytelling?

  • Fan''s journey is a quest narrative, a storytelling form that traditionally tells about a hero''s transformation. Fan, though, doesn''t fundamentally change from the start of the novel to the end. Why do you think this is true? What has changed over the course of the novel?

  • By the time the events of the novel begin, Reg has already disappeared. Why do you think the author has chosen not to introduce us to Reg as an active character during the novel?

  • There is a period of growing discontent within B-Mor. What do you think accounts for this situation? How is it resolved? Do you think Fan would have left B-Mor if Reg had not disappeared? Do you think any of the discontent within B-Mor would have occurred if Fan had not gone after Reg?

  • Think about race and how it is used in the book. In some ways this is a postracial America, but in other important ways, old prejudices linger. In addition, new divisions seem to have sprung up in place of racial discord. What are some of these divisions and how do they affect the characters and their lives? What do you think the author was trying to accomplish in this way?

  • What do you think are the most significant quality-of-life differences between the settlements and the charter villages? Where are people the happiest, and why? What are the appeals of life in the Open Counties? Why haven''t more B-Mor residents like Fan ever left their settlement? Where do you think that you would be the happiest?