Still Life Las Vegas
by James Sie • August 11, 2015 • St. Martin’s Press
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An astonishing literary debut about a young man who, in the search for clues into the disappearance of his mother twelve years earlier, discovers himself in the process.
Recent high school graduate and aspiring artist Walter Stahl lives with his ailing father in the dregs of Las Vegas, their lives overshadowed by the disappearance of Walter’s mother, who drove off when he was five and never returned. Although Walter has never so much as seen a photograph of his mother, it doesn’t stop him from keeping an eye out for her in the groups of tourists he caters to in his dead-end job along the Strip.
Then Walter meets Chrysto and Acacia, a brother and sister working as living statues at the Venetian Hotel, and his world cracks open. Spending less time caring for his father, and more time riding on the backs of Vespas and drawing, Walter finds life has more to offer than he could have imagined. But as his feelings for Chrysto deepen, and as clues behind his mother’s disappearance start to reveal themselves, Walter is forced to face the truth about himself and his family history.
Threading through this coming-of-age story are beautiful and heart-wrenching graphic illustrations, depicting how Walter’s mother Emily, a Vietnamese-born accordion player, abandoned her family to chase a vision of Liberace across the country; and how Walter’s father went searching for her amongst the gondolas of the Venetian Hotel.
In Still Life Las Vegas, the magical collides with the mundane; memory, sexual awakening and familial ties all lead to a place where everything is illuminated, and nothing is real.
I received this book for free from St. Martin’s Press in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
First sentence: “She drove the blue Volvo station wagon away from Vee’s house with a sober determination, like it was a lame horse she was leading out of the barn.”
What made me interested in Still Life Las Vegas initially: It’s a hybrid novel—part prose and part graphic novel—and has a half-Vietnamese gay protagonist! These are things that you don’t see often in books, so I instantly knew I had to read it. Would you say no?
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