BookDragon Books for the Diverse Reader

Dogs at the Perimeter by Madeleine Thien

Dogs at the perimeterAbove all else, Janie is a survivor. She escaped the horrifying deaths that took her entire family in her native Cambodia. She’s outlived her adoptive Canadian mother who passed away just last year. She’s built a fulfilling career as a scientist specializing in brain research. She’s the wife of a kind, gentle husband, and the mother to an adorable 7-year-old boy whose name in Khmer means “mountain.”

And then her colleague and good friend Hiroji disappears without warning – literally just walks out of his own life. And, Janie, too, begins to unravel as she can no longer contain the haunting memories of her never-faded past. Janie knows of Hiroji’s connections to her native country: his older brother James left Canada in 1970 to work as a Red Cross doctor for the victims of that heinous war, married a local woman, then just vanished. Hiroji’s repeated journeys produced no answers about his brother’s fate.

Now decades later, Janie realizes Hiroji’s need to finally know what happened has catapulted him from all that is comfortable and familiar; she knows that she, too, must do the same and confront her brutal past in order that she might reclaim her uncertain future. Both have lost a father, mother, brother. Both will need to face long suppressed memories literally trapped in their brains with which they are both so scientifically familiar, yet so emotionally detached.

In breathtaking elliptical prose that suggests more than it divulges, Madeleine Thien presents a tragic history in search of hope. Connecting elusive glimpses with disappeared moments and fractured pieces, Dogs at the Perimeter proves to be an exquisite story of redemption and recovery.

An award-winning Canadian writer of Malaysian and Chinese descent, Thien’s first two titles – her novel Certainty and short story collection Simple Recipes – found U.S. publishers after their Canadian debuts. Ironically (sadly), Dogs pubbed in Canada then in the U.K. (from highbrow Granta Books) to excellent reviews, but has yet to find an American home south of the border. U.S. publishers, take note: surely it’s time to move these Dogs at the Perimeter into the spotlight.

Readers: Adult

Published: 2011 (Canada), 2012 (UK)


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