The Boat

BY Nam Le
Publisher: Anchor Canada
With his immensely imaginative and gifted voice, Nam Le brings us a haunting collection of stories that resonate like those of JD Salinger, ZZ Packer, and Canada’s own Vincent Lam.

A stunningly inventive fiction debut: stories that take us from the slums of Colombia to the streets of Tehran; from New York City to Iowa City; from a fishing village in Australia to a floundering vessel in the South China Sea, in a masterful display of literary virtuosity and feeling.

In the magnificent opening story, a young writer is urged by his friends to mine his father’s experiences in Vietnam–and what seems at first a satire of turning one’s life into literary commerce becomes a transcendent exploration of the ties between father and son. “Cartagena” provides a visceral glimpse of life in Colombia as a fourteen-year-old hit man faces the ultimate test. In “Meeting Elise” an aging New York painter mourns his body’s decline as he prepares to meet his daughter on the eve of her Carnegie Hall debut. The title story returns us to Vietnam, to a fishing trawler crowded with refugees, where a young woman’s bond with a mother and her small son forces both women to a harrowing decision.

Adam Haslett praises Nam Le for “the kind of courage and directness it takes most writers years to achieve.” Charles D’Ambrosio says, “The Boat nails our collective now with an urgency and relevance that feel visionary.”

From the Hardcover edition.


Love and Honor and Pity and Pride and Compassion and Sacrifice

My father arrived on a rainy morning. I was dreaming about a poem, the dull thluck thluck of a typewriter's keys punching out the letters. It was a good poem--perhaps the best I'd ever written. When I woke up, he was standing outside my bedroom...
Read More


1. “Love and Honor and Pity and Pride and Compassion and Sacrifice”

When his father arrives, the narrator is dreaming about a poem he is writing. His father “had a habit of speaking in Vietnamese proverbs” [p. 3]. Why is the juxtaposition of the father's use of proverbs and the son'...

Read More


“Wonderful . . . an extraordinary performance. Nam Le is a heartbreaker, not easily forgotten.”
– Junot Diaz, Pulitzer Prize-winning author

“A wild ride across cultures, continents, and experience. . . . On the evidence of his debut, there’s nothing Nam Le can’t do.”
The Gazette (Montreal)

“Nam Le is extraordinary. . . . The Boat will be read for as long as people read books. Its vision and its power are timeless.”
–Mary Gaitskill

“Remarkable . . . Astonishing. . . . [Le’s] sympathy for his characters and his ability to write with both lyricism and emotional urgency lend his portraits enormous visceral power.”
The New York Times

“An extraordinarily accomplished and sophisticated writer. . . . Moving and unforgettable.”
San Francisco Chronicle

From the Hardcover edition.