Friday, November 13, 2015

Strange topic, worthy message

Animal Suicide

By Alexandro Chen


Publisher: Amazon Digital Services, Inc. 

Pub. Date: November 1, 2015

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

What a strange and lovely book Animal Suicide is. With a title destined to chase away a few people, Animal Suicide turns how to be a bitterweet tale about the meaning of life and the frailty of relationships. Li-Mei is going to commit suicide but decides not to after her mother calls to say her Chihuahua died. He was found hanging from his chain in a tree. With no motive or suspects, Li-Mei determines that the dog killed himself and discovers that suicides among animals are not unheard of. The topic of animal suicide becomes an obsession for her and, as you can figure, doesn't really do much for her social life. That is until she meets two other people interested in the topic and joins the Animal Self-Destruction Observation Club to explore her obsession.

The author Alexandro Chen uses this slightly uncomfortable topic to craft an odd but humorous tale that is not really about animal suicide as much as figuring how what life is about and why life become so meaningless to some people as to contemplate ending it. Each of the three people have a reason for being interested in this strange topic. Li-Mei is not really sure why she is suicidal. She has a good if dull and isolated life. The novel is presented through her first-person narration. What starts out as a strange tale of obsession with death becomes an equally strange but comforting romance. During the club's field trip we are given little hints about what the hell everything is about but what kept me going was Li-Mei's own development as she finds a connection with De-Shi, the boy who started the club. What develops and how it ends gives this somewhat simple story its heart and soul.

This short novel is one of those quirky but brief tales that stay with you. The somewhat neurotic approach to relationships and romance gives it a Haruki Murakami edge while the very dry humor that creeps up in the most unpredictable times reminds me of Vonnegut. What it also have in common is an on-the-fence nihilism which is eventually overcomed by an humanistic light. Animal Suicide may not provide anyone answers to the meaning of life but it may shed some light on why people like Li-Mei keep on going despite confusion and chaos. Animal Suicide turned out to be a pleasant surprise in the massive outpouring of publications this year. Hopefully enough people will pick up this book and get the word out. Alexandro Chen is not only a gifted writer but one who is willing to try to make sense out of the insanity called life. Whether he will succeed in that endeavor is highly doubtful but that just means he is as human as we are.

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