16 Sep / Bangkok Wakes to Rain by Pitchaya Sudbanthad [in Booklist]
Slightly gravelly voiced Scottish actor Euan Morton takes immediate command here, crisply enunciating Bangkok-native, New-York based Pitchaya Sudbanthad’s ambitious debut. What initially reads like unrelated short stories reveals a broader overview of a city in constant flux, its past, present, and future represented by a specific piece of land that morphs through generations from Christian Congregational mission to family mansion to condominium complex.
Hearkening to his substantive thespian skills, Morton’s adept adjustments in tone, timbre, and pitch signal shifts in time, place, age, and station – essential for presenting such a sprawling cast, including a 19th-century doctor, an aging woman who hopes to placate her resident ghosts with music, and an American musician well past his prime. One sister becomes the building’s manager while mourning her revolutionary lover. The other sister runs a Thai restaurant in Japan that feeds homesick souls.
Alas, three-quarters through Sudbanthad’s atmospheric and intertwined odyssey, a sudden shift to futuristic dystopia in the final section engenders a palpably disappointing conclusion.