"In my twilight years, my possessions are sparse.
...One of them is a watch
...The other article is a human skull."
--Khan Ha, Flesh
Genre: Adult Historical Fiction
Publisher: Black Heron Press, 366 pages
Publication Date: June 15th, 2012
Source: Copy received in exchange for an honest review as part of Virtual Blog Tours
The setting is Tonkin (northern Vietnam) at the turn of the 20th century. A boy, Tai, witnesses the beheading of his father, a notorious bandit, and sets out to recover his head and then to find the man who betrayed his father to the authorities. On this quest, Tai's entire world will shift. FLESH takes the reader into dark and delightful places in the human condition, places where allies are not always your friends, true love hurts, and your worst enemy may bring you the most comfort. In that emotionally harrowing world, Tai must learn to deal with new responsibilities in his life while at the same time acknowledging his bond, and his resemblance, to a man he barely knew-his father. Through this story of revenge is woven another story, one of love, but love purchased with the blood of murders Tai commits. A coming-of-age story, but also a love story, the sensuality of the author's writing style belies the sometimes brutal world he depicts.
Welcome to the Virtual Author Book Tour's Blog Tour Stop of Flesh by Khan Ha!! First and foremost I have to say that the writing of this novel is beautiful. The prose and visual descriptions are in a league of their own. The imagery is so rich and vivid and seeping with emotion that you can really get a clear picture in your head of exactly what is going on. And a lot goes on. The beginning of the story transports you immediately into a mass execution...yeah, you heard me right. The main character of the story's father is the leader of a gang who is being executed because one of their own betrayed them. Starts off with a bang that's for sure. From there, the son is hell bent set on recovering his father's skull because unfortunately it was taken away post-execution. From there, he tries to find his father's skull and then wants to give his father peace by burying his head with his body in a sacred place. Because of that the rest of the story happens and I'll let you read if you truly want to know more :)
I enjoyed the beginning of the story. It was set at a faster pace and I buzzed through the first 100 pages like it was nothing. From there though the plot really seemed to slow down. While I loved the descriptions of everything, because it truly does paint a beautiful picture, it got to be a little too much at the end. I would have liked a bit more drama in the dialogue department and a little less vocab in the description area. The plot does twist and turn. A lot of things happen that I never really expected. Tai also spends a lot of the back end of the novel trying to solve the mystery of the man who betrayed his father. This really drives the plot towards the end of the novel and helps bring the reader (and Tai) closure.
The love story that is written about is just lovely. The two characters that end up having a relationship truly care about each other and continue to prove to one another just how much the other one means to them. They are constantly thinking about the other, they watch out for one another, they go to bat for each other, and they make sure the other is always taken care of, even if they cannot be the ones to do it. I also loved the dynamic between Tai and his mother. They have lost so much, they are apart all the time but they still care and love each other so much. They are partners in their shared grief of the cards life has dealt them. The strength showed by Tai's mother is beyond real. This lady is one strong woman. She fights for each and every day and tries her hardest to make the best of what she has left.
Flesh was a very interesting look on a time period and geographic area that, before this, I truly knew nothing about. I love to learn, especially about other cultures and countries and this was no exception. The writing is beautiful and the story itself is loaded with passion and tension and unspoken subtleties. I would definitely recommend if you love historical fiction and a writing style that is rich with description and detail. The author paints a beautiful picture of a not-so-beautiful time that leaves the reader immersed in the setting.