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Paperback / ISBN-13: 9780349013473

Price: £8.99

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A major US debut novel in 2019

Shortlisted for the Centre for Fiction First Novel Prize

A New York Times Book Review Editors’ Choice

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.

‘A singularly vast and captivating novel, beautifully written in free-flowing prose that quietly disarms with its intermittent moments of poetic idiosyncrasy’ New York Times Book Review

A striking debut by an unforgettable new voice’ Cosmopolitan


It's hard to believe that The Unpassing is a debut novel, so confident and pitch-perfect is Chia-Chia Lin's portrayal of an immigrant Taiwanese family trying to settle into their new Alaskan life. Lin conjures up a compelling mystery - a young daughter's sudden fatal illness - via a cast of quirky protagonists so believable and enchanting that they dance around the page from the first chapter. Debuts often suffer from being over-written, busy with too many unnecessary adjectives, too much exposition. Lin's novel has none of these traits; whether through constant discipline or sheer talent, the graceful sentences flow, the characters grow. Delightful notions arise without a hint of enforcement or sentimentality
Big Issue
Like the landscape it inhabits, this brilliant novel is composed of equal parts mystery, menace, and ravishment. It's difficult to think of another recent book in which emotion mounts so steadily and inexorably, nearly imperceptibly, until the last pages arrive with almost unbearable force. Chia-Chia Lin is among the best new writers I've read in years
Garth Greenwell, author of What Belongs to You
Lin is a superb chronicler of the Alaska landscape and its '19-hour nights' and 'ghost forests', where spruce 'had guzzled salt water and died. Decades later, the silvery skeletons of those trees still stood'.This stark backdrop mirrors the immigrant experience of isolation. This is powerful family saga, written in lyrical prose
A terrifying bout of meningitis takes the life of a little girl but spares her older brother, leaving their Taiwanese-American immigrant family reeling in 1980s Alaska, navigating heartbreak and uncertainty in an unfamiliar world
TIME (Best books of 2019)
I can't stop thinking about The Unpassing. Chia-Chia Lin captures the strangeness and beauty of childhood better than any writer in recent memory, and she is a brilliant observer of physical and emotional landscapes. Readers should be excited: this debut novel, a true work of art, displays the kind of clear and uniquely-angled vision that announces the beginning of a remarkable career
Jamel Brinkley, author of A Lucky Man
A singularly vast and captivating novel, beautifully written in free-flowing prose that quietly disarms with its intermittent moments of poetic idiosyncrasy. But what makes Lin's novel such an important book is the extent to which it probes America's myth-making about itself, which can just as easily unmake as it can uplift
New York Times Book Review
Stunning . . . With powerful and poetic prose, Lin captures the uncertainty and insight of childhood . . . Lin's majestic writing immerses the reader in the bodily experiences of her characters, who writhe, paw, dig, salivate, and draw readers into their world
Booklist (starred review)
An arresting portrait of an immigrant family's pivotal moment of crisis . . . a nuanced portrayal of the American frontier . . . Lin's spare, lyric prose sets an elemental stage, a place indifferent to human suffering, cycling through life and death on a larger scale . . . The Unpassing is a powerful debut from an author to watch
San Francisco Chronicle
Graceful and precise
A stormy, beautiful story about loss and isolation and family that resonated deeply
C Pam Zhang, Guardian
A striking debut by an unforgettable new voice
Chia-Chia Lin's The Unpassing is a searing, open wound of a book, marvelously alive and, quite simply, remarkable. Traversing the oftentimes brutal frontier of an isolated family living in an isolated environment, I can't think of another novel as of late that relentlessly tackles headlong our deepest struggles for a sense of place, of home, and belonging. How do we push through grief? How do we find peace with not only our loved ones but ourselves? What sacrifices must we endure for friendship and connection? This is a story for our times. And a story unlike any other
Paul Yoon, author of The Mountain
In this spare, deeply felt debut novel, Lin resists received wisdom about the American Dream to craft a family saga about the difficulty of grieving far from home
The Unpassing is a breathtaking novel, full of characters as strong and as wild as the Alaskan landscape they inhabit. Sentence after gorgeous sentence, I was pulled into their eery and beautiful world. Chia-Chia Lin is a remarkable writer
Yaa Gyasi, author of Homegoing
Lin's attention to detail is startling, and though she keeps close to Gavin's childhood experience, she also allows us to read between the lines and intuit the depth of the family's grief, financial straits and fear of belittlement from their white neighbors and colleagues. Anyone who has ever grieved - be it the loss of a person, home, country or security - will feel a sense of recognition. The Unpassing is a remarkable, unflinching debut
Washington Post
[A] grim, breathtakingly beautiful debut novel . . . Lin excels when she gets small, with finely observed renderings of the family's surroundings . . . The way this chilling, captivating book concludes will delight as much as it challenges, offering as it does a blend of escape, tragedy, triumph, loss and what we've expected all along
Los Angeles Times
Harrowing . . . In lyrical, intimate prose, Lin reveals the harsh realities of working class life in 1980s Alaska and the failed promises of the American dream
Wall Street Journal Magazine