The Latehomecomer‘s strength lies in its emotions and descriptions. Kao Kalia’s story is not my story, but between one word and the next, her words and voice invited me into her world and life.
I am only four years younger than Kao Kalia. Her parents, family and ethnic group emigrated to America because they fought for an ideal they believed in, lost, and saw better opportunities for their children in America. My great-grandparents emigrated because they held to their religion, were hated, and saw better opportunities for their children in America. The landmarks of American life Kao grew up with are the same ones I grew up with. The melody is at least vaguely familiar.
It’s the notes of familiarity which gave me better immersion into the differences. Other authors may describe refugee camps in Thailand in more detail, but how many can show me a 6 year-old’s emotional ties to the place, the people, the land, and smells so well that I feel them as well?
The strongest section of the book is the funeral. By then I was engrossed to the point where the grief, the food, the sights, smells and beliefs of the Hmong swept me along as if I had always lived with them. The deceased’s journey back through her life and on to the next was the most moving description of funeral rites I’ve ever read or experienced.
The Latehomecomer is an excellent read for anyone interested in walking in another’s shoes.
Alethea is a computer programmer, science fiction/fantasy geek, and amateur movie reviewer at This Insane Movie Project.