Leung's (Lost Men) lyrical sophomore novel follows Addie Maine, a white woman who, 40 years earlier, fled her marriage in 1880s Wyoming after a risky act of compassion saves Chinese immigrant miners. In 1927, she returns to the violently xenophobic town of Dire to be celebrated by a Chinese dignitary for her past effort. Leung's evocative tale backtracks in time as he recounts Addie's teenage trip by train to live with her farmer brother, during which she was unceremoniously schooled about the "coolies," the derogatory term for the Chinese who had been brought from California to work in the Wyoming mines. Addie's brother's eventual failure to produce a lucrative crop forces the siblings to seek jobs in the mines, where Addie meets Wing Lee. Their association incites the ire of the townsfolk and sets violent events in motion. Leung's subtle, perceptive saga closes on notes both touching and patriotic. (Oct.)
An award-winning short story writer (World Famous Love Acts) and novelist (Lost Men), Leung here gives us a fascinating depiction of life, love, and racial strife in the mining camps of the 19th-century American West. The novel opens with central character Adele (Addie) Maine traveling back to the Wyoming mining town from which she escaped 40 years ago when things went terribly wrong. She had moved there originally to join her older brother, Tommy, as he attempted to homestead but instead had to work in the nearby coal mine. To Addie's surprise, the miners were Chinese and Americans, and the animosity between the groups permeated working and living conditions. Resourceful and independent Addie was fiercely loyal to her brother; however, when she befriended a Chinese male cook to help her sell meat to the miners, she began a tenuous reach across the threshold of racial propriety. And then her life took an even stranger turn as she deferred to her brother's wishes. VERDICT In this work of insight and sensitivity, Leung succinctly portrays how Chinese miners of the era were resented and what happened to people who crossed the racial barrier. All fiction readers should consider.—Maureen Neville, Trenton P.L., NJ
The "home" of the title is the minuscule (and aptly named) settlement of Dire, Wyo., where Addie Maine revisits a locus of love and loss40 years after the tragic events that had transpired there.
In the 1880s, Addie travels from Kentucky to Wyoming at the behest of her brother, Tommy, who had settled in those unpromising surroundings and was trying to make his way as a homesteader/coal miner. Addie finds herself helping out in any way she can, primarily by shooting rabbits and entering into a business relationship with Wing Lee, a Chinese immigrant who'd moved from San Francisco to Wyoming along with a number of his fellow countrymen. While Wing is a cook, most of his peers are coal miners, and their willingness to work for extremely low wages causes resentment among the white population. At this time prejudice against the Chinese is rife, for they're seen as bestial and subhuman. When Tommy is killed in a mine collapse, she marries the laconic, depressed and depressing Finn Atso Muukkonen, who is both unable and unwilling to consummate their relationship. Addie finds herself more and more attracted to Wing, and despite cultural prejudices it's clear that he's attracted to her as well. One day they give in to their sexual impulses, and Addie finds herself carrying Wing's child. Eventually, tension between the white and Asian cultures gets so extreme that anti-Chinese riots break out, and a number of Chinese are killed, including Wing, but in a final gesture of generosity he makes Addie's escape from Dire possible and allows her to go to California to start a new life. Leung (Lost Men, 2007, etc.) tells most of his story through flashbacks, as Addie travels back to Dire in the 1920s, largely to confirm whether it was her own husband who had shot her during the riots40 years earlier.
An engaging and beguiling novel about prejudice, relationships and the possibilities of redemption.
“Leung uses the discord between whites and Asians in the West of the 1880s to give his novel both depth and a compelling twist.”
Louisville Courier Journal
“A sweeping, action-packed novel.”
“Every now and then, a small, quiet, well-crafted novel is just what the doctor ordered. . . . Take Me Home by Brian Leung fits the bill.”
“This beautiful novel is about forbidden friendships, secrets kept, and one woman’s quest to stay alive.”
“The story is set in 1880s Wyoming, and Leung has re-created the warp and woof of the territory with faithful clarity. . . . An indelible picture of the Wyoming Territory and two unlikely lovers.”
“[Leung] spins a fascinating tale of tough women confronting loneliness, prejudice, and forbidden love.”
“Brian Leung’s exquisitely crafted novel Take Me Home is a story of the Old West for investigative readers, a necessary and cautionary tale spun from the lessons of real history. . . . [His] lyric gifts as a novelist bring the deftly plotted story alive.”
“Leung wisely narrows his plot into a tightly woven and unusual love story. . . . [His] writing, in fact, has a train-like rhythm that will keep any reader turning the page to see what the journey home looks like.”
Historical Novels Review
“Brian Leung captures the haunting landscape, harsh conditions, and abundant racism of late 19th century Wyoming, and he also leaves the reader with the hope that, while amends can never be made for past cruelties, the future may be somewhat brighter.”
“The coal mine culture of Wyoming comes alive in this story of forbidden friendship.”
The Tucson Citizen
“A powerful story about friendship, love, and eventual triumph, set against the dramatic backdrop of 1880s Wyoming. It is thought-provoking, crisply written, and compulsively readable.”
Dallas Morning News
“Heartfelt. . . . Leung’s writing is so clear and lovely and his characters are so well-realized . . . The character of Wing speaks eloquently for thousands of Chinese miners whose voices are lost to history.”
“Take Me Home is a riveting novel of two heroic people attempting to transcend the prejudices of their time and place. Through Leung’s skillful artistry and empathy, we see the worst aspects of humanity, but we also see the best.”
“Take Me Home is beautiful. The language of Brian Leung’s novel is poetic and surprising and yet still manages to capture the coarseness, the beardedness of Rock Springs, Wyoming. It’s a smart book that offers an important window into the West and therefore the American story.”
“Take Me Home is very much about humanityvery much about our need to love, no matter how forbidden. Lovers of history and heroines will want to devour this book.”
Helena Maria Viramontes
"Brian Leung’s Take Me Home is powerfully imagined. . . . [His] pristine prose recounts a time of tough women dealing with the loneliness of the Wyoming plains and the unforgiving landscape of an 1880s coal-mining town, a time when we were all immigrants in search of a place we could call home."
Helena María Viramontes
“Brian Leung’s Take Me Home is powerfully imagined. . . . [His] pristine prose recounts a time of tough women dealing with the loneliness of the Wyoming plains and the unforgiving landscape of an 1880s coal-mining town, a time when we were all immigrants in search of a place we could call home.”