Love can be beautiful and disastrous at the same time. In Sheung-King’s debut novel You are Eating an Orange. You are Naked., he brilliantly evokes the complexities of an intense romantic relationship with the use of lyrical language and folk tales that draw the reader in. “The rain has just stopped and the sky is bright. The birds are singing. The ground is starting to dry. I see sunlight reflected in the puddles, and droplets dripping from the tips of leaves.” Dripping on the pages of this beautifully written novel is an intimate portrayal of a love affair between a calm and philosophical man and his ambitious and strong lover.
The lover isn’t always kind to the protagonist who seems to push aside his lover’s hurtful comments because he is drawn to and captivated with her. Sheung-King has captured the longings and anguish of a person in a mostly one-sided relationship. When the lovers are in Macau, the woman leaves the man and when he confronts her about it, she says: “I got bored of you, okay? What’s the point of travelling if you’re not having any fun? So I messaged some friends, decided to meet them in Hong Kong.” These comments make you wonder why the man sticks around.
But love can be chaotic and Sheung-King demonstrates this in startling and powerful passages that remind you of the fragility of the human heart and the yearning to be loved. His approach to the universal question of what would you do for love is handled with an astounding freshness.
Although the story focuses mostly on the love affair, the book also speaks movingly on race, especially what it means to be Asian. In the chapter entitled “I am Writing about a Hole”, Sheung-King describes the racism the main character faces. While playing basketball in high school, a discriminatory comment is directed at the protagonist. However, he doesn’t confront the other student. “When the hole is present, the part of you that wants to speak vanishes and you lose the desire to say anything – like when you lose your appetite after drinking too much coffee.”
Though the writing is powerful, there are some sections that read like explanatory essays in place of action and, as a result, take us out of the narrative. But despite these momentary detours, this soul-searching novel will make readers look forward to Sheung-King’s future books.
About the author: Sheung-King is a writer and educator. His work has appeared in PRISM International, The Shanghai Literary Review, and The Humber Literary Review, among others. He is currently a lecturer at the University of Guelph and Sheridan College. You Are Eating an Orange. You Are Naked. is Sheung-King’s debut book. Originally from Hong Kong, he lives in Toronto.
- Publisher: Book*hug Press (Oct. 27, 2020)
- Paperback: 195 pages
- ISBN-10: 1771666412
- ISBN-13: 978-1771666411
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