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On Such a Full Sea by Chang-Rae Lee

Review: 2 / 5

I was really excited for On Such a Full Sea when I picked it up. The premise — a girl (Fan) leaves the safety of near-future dystopian Baltimore to find the man she loves and gets into strange and unusual situations during her journey — sounded great. The end product was just okay. The story is told in pieces and narrated by (presumably) a Baltimore (now “B-Mor”) resident. We move between recounting episodes of Fan’s life (presented sort-of omnisciently by the narrator, never from Fan’s perspective) and describing daily life in B-Mor before and after Fan sets out to find her boyfriend, who has mysteriously disappeared.

Never seeing the story from Fan’s perspective was a bit of a let down. The narrator keeps Fan at a distance and so it is hard to care much about Fan as the story unfolds. Fan’s journey rarely has high stakes and does not build to anything particularly interesting or compelling. There are a few interesting and engaging plotlines, especially when Fan finds herself held captive with a group of child-like women who draw their stories on a wall, but other sections were a bit of a slog.

The prose is beautiful and I will read some of Lee’s other work in the future but I do not think I will come back to this one again.


Title: On Such a Full Sea
Author: Chang-Rae Lee
Published: 2014
ISBN: 9781594632891
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