17 Mar / Activities of Daily Living by Lisa Hsiao Chen [in Booklist]
More and more, New York-based video editor Alice needs to return to California to manage her chain-smoking, hard-drinking stepfather, who is always referred to as the Father. His “handle on ADLs [activities of daily living] had already been slipping,” and he requires increased levels of care with his growing dementia. Alice is often mistaken by staff as the nurse on duty because Alice is ethnically Taiwanese, and the Father is white.
In between crisscrossing the country, Alice insists she’s working on a project about Tehching Hsieh, a (real-life) Taiwanese American performance artist whose first prominent work was a year spent in a self-built cage during which he did “NOT converse, read, write, listen to the radio or watch television.” Witnessing the Father’s progressive disappearance is not so unlike attempting to comprehend the motivations of the vanished artist. For Alice, time – passing, spending, wasting, intersecting – becomes the nebulous concept it was before the contrivance of its measurement: “When the clock was invented, time was too.”
Ambitiously inquisitive and ingeniously compelling, Lisa Hsia Chen’s debut novel confronts the liminal spaces between identities, languages, expectations, realities.