The Double Life of Benson Yu by Kevin Chong

The Double Life of Benson Yu is classified as metafiction, a narrative structure that reminds you that you are reading or viewing a fictional work. It takes a little while to get into, but I think, once in, Chong is a master weaver of fiction. You might have to allow yourself some speculation and set judgements aside, but it works in an odd way. Chong vibrantly describes 1980s Chinatown and makes the people and colours come alive in a diaspora way that captures the time and moment.  

The tale is of Benny Yu, who lost his mother, never knew his father, and is left to live with his ailing grandmother. After his grandmother goes into hospital and then dies, he is left living alone, before moving in with his strange neighbour, the Samurai; a man who thinks himself a reincarnation of an ancient warrior.  

There is a content warning at the beginning of the book and there are some heavy topics, including child abuse but there is never graphic detail. This is a unique work of literary fiction and has a fresh construction, a new way of looking at dealing with childhood trauma and facing our demons up close and personal. Benson Yu is trying to write a new graphic novel on the advice of his therapist, a nice story of young Benny and his mentor Constantine. He isn’t ready to face the truth yet about what really happened. But Benny Yu keeps interjecting. He won’t allow the story to be told this way. Maybe it is time for the truth to finally come out? Perhaps it is time to face his hidden monsters? A dark tale, sparsely told, a twisted coming of age.  

Kevin Chong is the award-winning author of several books of fiction and nonfiction. His work has appeared in The GuardianThe Rumpus, and more. He currently lives in Vancouver and is an assistant professor at the University of British Columbia.

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Atria Books (April 18 2023)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Hardcover ‏ : ‎ 224 pages
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 1668005492
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1668005491

Laurie Burns is an English as additional language teacher to immigrants, literacy volunteer and voracious reader living in Dartmouth.