Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Review of King's An Excess Male

Maggie Shen King's novel An Excess Male (2017) is unique and engrossing. It shifts from human interest story to thriller and back, with Chinese authoritarian politics infusing everything. The setting is Beijing in the not-too-distant future, where the one-child policy has led to such an imbalance of men and women that men find it difficult to marry wives. One answer has been to allow for women to be married to more than one man. Wei-guo is single and in his 40s, and a matchmaker (hired by his two fathers) finds a possible wife who already has two husbands. The idiosyncrasies of that family frame the novel because they are brothers. One is homosexual and one appears to be high functioning autistic (he prefers to be called XX). The government punishes the former and is wary of the latter. Finally, Wei-guo plays a military-style real-life simulation intended for single men in which he is part of a mini-rebellion that angers government officials.

The female character, May-ling, loves her husbands but does not connect fully with either one. Part of the story is the evolution of her feelings toward Wei-guo, who falls almost immediately in love with her. He also connects with their rather difficult young child. The novel is really about what family means, and the human cost of government repression and control, which creates a lot of unnecessary misery.


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