In Chia-Chia Lin’s piercing debut novel, The Unpassing, we meet a Taiwanese immigrant family of six struggling to make ends meet on the outskirts of Anchorage, Alaska. The father, hardworking but beaten down, is employed as a plumber and contractor, while the loving, strong-willed, unpredictably emotional mother holds the house together. When ten-year-old Gavin contracts meningitis at school, he falls into a deep, nearly fatal coma. He wakes a week later to learn that his younger sister, Ruby, was infected too. She did not survive.
Routine takes over for the grieving family, with the siblings caring for one another as they befriend the neighbouring children and explore the surrounding woods, while distance grows between the parents as each deals with the loss alone. When the father, increasingly guilt-ridden after Ruby’s death, is sued over an improperly installed water well that gravely harms a little boy, the chaos that follows unearths what really happened to Ruby.
With flowing prose that evokes the terrifying beauty of the Alaskan wilderness, Chia-Chia Lin explores the fallout from the loss of a child and a family’s anguish playing out in a place that doesn’t yet feel like home. Emotionally raw and subtly suspenseful, The Unpassing is a deeply felt family saga that dismisses the myth of the American dream for a harsher, but ultimately profound, reality.