Wednesday 12 January 2022

#bookreview: Two Figures in a Car and Other Stories | Wan Phing Lim

Two Figures in a Car and Other StoriesTwo Figures in a Car and Other Stories by Wan Phing Lim
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

As a brief disclaimer, I am probably biased towards this book because Wan Phing is a writing friend - some of these stories I remember from critique sessions, and two of them (A Star Has Landed and Islanders) were first published in NutMag, the annual zine that I run.

I've always loved Wan Phing's voice as a writer - and this debut collection of 14 stories (2 of them new) is a showcase of that. The stories are very rooted in local life and the places she's lived - mostly Penang and Singapore - while the one (and a half) set in England are peopled by Malaysians. Her language dips in and out of local vernacular, peppered with Malay and Hokkien expressions and the occasional Mandarin phrase.

If I were to put a central theme to this collection, I'd say it's relationships - or maybe love, sex, and family. Because whether it's Seng sending money home to his son, Sozai musing on the Penang Bridge, the Ruby case that Sergeant Wong refuses to close, or the many people Justin Liew has slept with, each character is pushed and pulled by their relationships to the people around them. There's no shying away from the dark side and failings of human nature: the stories explore ambition and escape, affairs and one-night stands, madness and murder, as well as the supernatural.

All fourteen stories are quite short - I think many of them don't cross the 2K mark - so Two Figures in a Car and Other Stories is quite a quick, if somewhat dark, read.

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