Tiller, the narrator of Lee’s most recent book, is twenty years old and living with Val who is in witness protection along with her eight year old son, Victor Jr. While describing his living situation with them, Tiller often reflects back on his association with Pong Lou, an enterprising Chinese-American who is a successful chemist and businessman. Pong takes an immediate liking to Tiller and asks him to accompany him and his entourage overseas. Both of these events in Tiller’s life have dramatic results.
My Year Abroad was disappointing. Tiller’s descriptions were often unnecessarily wordy, and his “voice” sometimes rubbed me the wrong way. By the time the climactic events occurred, I no longer cared what happened to Tiller and the people he associated with. I have read several other Chang-rae Lee novels and enjoyed them, especially A Gesture Life. Unfortunately, I did not feel the same about My Year Abroad.