Don Lee has written a fabulous novel. Now mind you, it has all elements in place to be a Daniel favorite—multiple (amazing) characters and perspectives, coincidence, outrageousness, place-y-ness (Rosarita Bay might be fictional, but it sure is real), a mix of cerebral and slapstick humor, an incredibly warm heart, and a brain to match. Lyndon Song, a Korean-Chinese farmer under siege by developers in this slowly gentrifying (from hippie to yuppie) Northern California town. He’s on the run from his fame as a sculptor, but what most people think is that he’s on the run from failure. In steps his brother Woody, who most definitely is on the run from failure, with an over-the-hill kung fu actress in tow, with whom he hopes to remake a classic Chinese action flick. And she hooks up with a former surf champion/pothead who’s remaking his life after having his foot chomped off by a shark. And Lyndon’s torn between two women, both in the process of remaking their lives in a big way. And the lead developer after Lyndon’s property certainly has some issues, as he can’t get past his college glory years when he played Tommy Trojan at USC games. But it turns out everyone in the story is either on the quest for fame and fortune or running from their efforts, failed or otherwise. And on top of that, Lee eloquently and humorous puts this achievement identity in the context of cultural identity and family identity. There’s a bit of raciness, but it’s really moves the plot along and it’s kept to a minimum. To make a quibble, I generally love references to characters in other books, but in this case, a summation of what happened to several folks in Lee’s wonderful collection Yellow might have worked a bit better if it didn’t come out all at once, in almost list form. I laughed out loud at some points and started tearing up at others. And there’s even a little mystery, albeit really little. Lee made me think, and this wonderful novel is done, and I’m still thinking. Honestly, what more can you want in a book?— Daniel Goldin
"Lee has outdone himself here. His prose moves and sparkles." —Washington Post
Wrack and Ruin is a rollicking comedy that’s seriously smart. When Lyndon Song’s estranged brother, Woody, shows up in northern California with a kung fu diva on his arm and a scheme to convert Lyndon’s coastal farmland into a golf course resort, Lyndon knows that his bucolic life as an artist-turned–Brussels sprouts farmer will never be the same again. Category-busting, award-winning novelist Don Lee surfs the tricky waters of identity, art, fame, and family in this brilliant, fast-paced comedy.
About the Author
Don Lee is the author of the novels The Collective, Wrack and Ruin, and Country of Origin, and the story collection Yellow. He has received an American Book Award, the Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature, the Sue Kaufman Prize for First Fiction, the Edgar Award for Best First Novel, an O. Henry Award, and a Pushcart Prize. He teaches in the MFA program in creative writing at Temple University and splits his time between Philadelphia and Baltimore.
Playful and lighthearted, Wrack and Ruin has an accidental elegance that is un-self-conscious and refreshing.
— Lisa Dierbeck
Entertaining…a darn good story.
A modern day, multicultural, environmental, and existential farce…wildly colorful and articulate…an interesting and humorous cross-section of life in a small town with big personalities.
— Erin Connor
The author of Yellow (2001) and Country of Origin (2004) delivers another warmly humorous take on identity in this entertaining novel…a highly appealing novel that swerves ever so gracefully from rollicking humor to poignant moments of reflection.
Wrack and Ruin is a spectacular romp, one of those rare novels whose goofiness is matched by its gravitas. Don Lee is a master of the tightly woven plot; this book is nearly impossible put down, though at times you may have to pause out of sheer hilarity.
— Jennifer Egan, author of A Visit from the Goon Squad
Wrack and Ruin is magnificent: bold, beautiful, heartfelt, witty, broad of scope, and yet as intimate as love given, or love received.
— Junot Diaz