Book Review|The Kite Family by Hon Lai-chu


The Kite Family
Hon Lai-chu
Short Stories

Kindle, 232 pages
Published December 31st 2015
East Slope Publishing Ltd. (Muse, Hong Kong)



A patient escapes from an asylum, to spend his life as the perfect mannequin in a department store display; when living alone is outlawed, a woman who resides quietly with her cat is assigned by bureaucrats to a role in an artificially created “family;” a luckless man transforms himself into a chair so people can, literally, sit on him. These are just a few of the inhabitants of Hon Lai-chu’s stories, where surreal characters struggle to carve out space for freedom and individuality in an absurd world. The Chinese version of “The Kite Family” won the New Writer’s Novella first prize from Taiwan’s Unitas Literary Association, was one of 2008’s Books of the Year according to Taiwan’s China Times, was selected as one of the Top 10 Chinese Novels Worldwide, and was awarded a Translation Grant from the U.S. National Endowment for the Arts.



I received this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

A collection of six short stories set in Hong Kong (or China). They’re hard to review since they’re full of metaphors and symbolism; they’re also quite different, tackling different issues. 

Now, they’re not an easy, fun read – like the novels we read to relax or forget about our day. They’re thought-provoking, and they make you question what the author really wanted to portray. 

I’ll say my own interpretation of the stories. I hope I got it right.

Spoiled Brains – tackles immigration and how people treat different people. Also, how replaceable people see other people.

The Kite Family – family and people whom’s body are disappearing. I think the idea was about how people put so much accent on the body and less to the mind and spirit. 

Forrest Woods, Chair – people who cannot find their place in this world, who feels useless, like objects.

Front Teeth – talks about our obsession with exterior beauty, such as pearly white teeth. And how perfect white smiles can be so cold . . .

Heartbreak Hotel – depressed people and how people are treated as commodities/objects.

Notes on an Epidemic – talks about how people these days tend to be very self-centered. They care only about themselves, and no one else. Such people also tend to live alone or use people to fulfill their basic needs/desires and that’s about it.

In general, these short stories are about people’s lives and how they are treated in their society. It is also about appearances vs reality. 

I will re-read this collection. I’m sure I will understand it even better after a re-read. I also think that if I knew more about China and Hong Kong I would’ve got more out of them. This is on my part, and not the author’s fault.

This short-stories are not for everyone. If you only read to forget about reality, these stories are not for you. However, I urge you to give it a try – they’re interesting.


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