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When I'm Gone, Look for Me in the East: A Novel (Paperback)
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From the acclaimed author of We Ride Upon Sticks comes a luminous novel that moves across a windswept Mongolia, as estranged twin brothers make a journey of duty, conflict, and renewed understanding.
"A dazzling achievement...The rhythms are more like prayer than prose, and the puzzlelike plot yields revelations." —The New York Times
Tasked with finding the reincarnation of a great lama—a spiritual teacher who may have been born anywhere in the vast Mongolian landscape—the young monk Chuluun sets out with his identical twin, Mun, who has rejected the monastic life they once shared. Their relationship will be tested on this journey through their homeland as each possesses the ability to hear the other’s thoughts.
Proving once again that she is a writer of immense range and imagination, Quan Barry carries us across a terrain as unforgiving as it is beautiful and culturally varied, from the western Altai mountains to the eerie starkness of the Gobi Desert to the ancient capital of Chinggis Khaan. As their country stretches before them, questions of faith—along with more earthly matters of love and brotherhood—haunt the twins.
Are our lives our own, or do we belong to something larger? When I’m Gone, Look for Me in the East is a stunningly far-flung examination of our individual struggle to retain our convictions and discover meaning in a fast-changing world, as well as a meditation on accepting what simply is.
About the Author
Born in Saigon and raised in Massachusetts, QUAN BARRY is the author of the novels She Weeps Each Time You’re Born and We Ride Upon Sticks (winner of the 2020 ALA Alex Award) and four books of poetry, including Water Puppets (winner of the AWP Donald Hall Prize for Poetry and a PEN Open Book finalist). Barry’s first play, The Mytilenean Debate, premieres in the spring of 2022. She is the Lorraine Hansberry Professor of English at the University of Wisconsin–Madison.
A MOST ANTICIPATED BOOK OF THE YEAR: Time, Bustle, PopSugar, Literary Hub, Essence
"Mesmerizing and delicate . . . a dazzling achievement . . . The rhythms are more like prayer than prose, and the puzzlelike plot yields revelations in unassuming sentences that a skimming eye could easily miss . . . The novel brims with formal peculiarities seemingly designed to cultivate alertness—and they do . . . There are sweet and surprising echoes of Dickens throughout . . . If you’re thinking that this adds up to the world’s weirdest logline—'A Buddhist sentimental education with stylistic innovation . . .'—you’re not wrong. The unlikeliness of the novel is exactly its magic." —Molly Young, The New York Times
"[An] engrossing new novel. . . and although it’s a sharp departure from We Ride Upon Sticks . . . its unconventional storytelling and fantastical elements will appeal to fans of Barry’s other books. Barry showcases the diversity of cultures and traditions within Mongolia and . . . challenges stereotypes of Buddhist monks that readers may carry . . . At its heart, When I’m Gone, Look for Me in the East asks questions fundamental to the human experience that will resonate regardless of the reader’s familiarity with Mongolia, and it’s bound to be beloved by book clubs.” —Serena Puang, Boston Globe
"Utterly original, a unique immersion in history, philosophy, religion, the nature of time, and the clash of old and new happening all over our world . . . An award-winning poet, Barry shapes transparent, simple language into images that are lyrical and haunting . . . When I’m Gone, Look for Me in the East is a story of much magic and many miracles—a startling, yet gentle, book." —Sally Shivnan, Washington Independent Review of Books
"Faith and brotherhood are at the heart of Quan Barry's compelling new novel." —PopSugar
"A wholly original, enlightening read." —Angela Haupt, TIME
"Spiritual and emotional. . . . When I’m Gone, Look for Me in the East is a journey worth taking. The writing is simple but powerful, like a proverb. Many small observations will stop readers in their tracks to contemplate the myriad meanings. . . . It’s what you would expect from a novel starring a young Buddhist monk: a peaceful and edifying story that can be endlessly mined for deeper meaning." —Olive Fellows, The Rumpus
"A dreamlike and lyrical journey steeped in the tenets of Tibetan Buddhism." —Kirkus Reviews (starred revew)
“An imaginative tour de force . . . Evincing the same dazzling talents that won high critical praise for We Ride upon Sticks, Barry vastly expands readers’ horizons, both geographical and metaphysical . . . Readers’ most transformative experience comes by reflecting—through Chulun’s thoughts, strangely tangled with Mun’s—on the Four Noble Buddhist Truths and the Eight-Fold Path. . .Though the narrative focuses on Mongolian Buddhism, readers learn how Buddhists everywhere have suffered as Chinese communists have persecuted the faith rooted in Tibet.” —Bryce Christensen, Booklist (starred review)
"The expansive imagination of Massachusetts-raised Quan Barry knows no bounds . . . Barry explores large questions about Buddhist philosophy and faith in general while painting a lush portrait of the Mongolian terrain." —Katherine Ouelette, WBUR
"This novel couldn’t be any more different from Quan Barry’s deliciously irreverent 2020 novel We Ride Upon Sticks—except that it is similarly excellent, and similarly immersive, a full-throated plunge into a very specific, fascinating world." —Emily Temple, Literary Hub