A Gesture Life

1999
Author(s)
Publisher
Penguin Random House
A Gesture Life

His remarkable debut novel was called “rapturous” (The New York Times Book Review), “revelatory” (Vogue), and “wholly innovative” (Kirkus Reviews). It was the recipient of six major awards, including the prestigious Hemingway Foundation/PEN award. Now Chang-rae Lee has written a powerful and beautifully crafted second novel that leaves no doubt about the extraordinary depth and range of his talent. A Gesture Life is the story of a proper man, an upstanding citizen who has come to epitomize the decorous values of his New York suburban town. Courteous, honest, hardworking, and impenetrable, Franklin Hata, a Japanese man of Korean birth, is careful never to overstep his boundaries and to make his neighbors comfortable in his presence. Yet as his story unfolds, precipitated by the small events surrounding him, we see his life begin to unravel. Gradually we learn the mystery that has shaped the core of his being: his terrible, forbidden love for a young Korean Comfort Woman when he served as a medic in the Japanese army during World War II. In A Gesture Life, Chang-rae Lee leads us with dazzling control through a taut, suspenseful story about love, family, and community—and the secrets we harbor. As in Native Speaker, he writes of the ways outsiders conform in order to survive and the price they pay for doing so. It is a haunting, breathtaking display of talent by an acclaimed young author.

About the Author

Chang-rae Lee is the author of six novels: Native Speaker (1995), A Gesture Life (1999), Aloft (2004), The Surrendered (2010), which was a Finalist for the Pulitzer Prize, On Such a Full Sea (2014) which was a Finalist for the NBCC and won the Heartland Fiction Prize, and his most recent novel, My Year Abroad (2021). His works have won numerous awards and citations, including the Hemingway Foundation/PEN Award, the American Book Award, the Anisfield-Wolf Literary Award, the Gustavus Myers Outstanding Book Award, and the Dayton Literary Peace Prize. In 2021, he was recognized for lifetime achievement in the Novel with an Award of Merit from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, as well as elected as a Member of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences.