The Unpassing

A beached whale waits for its fortune to change. Gavin’s mother brings him close. She pushes on the whale, trying to help. It does not move.

The Challenger explodes. A tree falls, but not all the way. A sister disappears, a sealed attic fills with loud life, a slick of mud churns and pulls strong legs down into the earth. Strange lights streak across the sky.

In Chia-Chia Lin’s new novel The Unpassing, the outside world is a bizarre and threatening place. So is Gavin’s cold, narrow house, filled with boxes of junk. 

Gavin is ten, and his family of six, then five, is Taiwanese. Somehow they’ve ended up in a swab of wintry Alaska, muted and sparse. We see his impoverished life like Gavin saw it then—his mother’s swerving fury, his father’s withdrawn guilt, his neighbor’s unimaginably stocked dinner table—and we understand connections he didn’t yet fathom. He is living through the pivot of his family’s history, but he doesn’t know it yet. 

The Unpassing by Chia-Chia Lin, from FSG