Dug into the stack of tsundoku and pulled out Wena Poon's 'The Proper Care of Foxes' (2009). This book must have been bought three or four years ago and I forgot about it till now. Oops. 11 short stories set around the world from Austin, Texas, to Hong Kong, Malaysia, Singapore, London and Somerset, England.
The writing is nuanced, concise and thoughtful. Some stories connect, some don't. Yet they don't feel haphazard in this collection. Many good ones totally worth a second read. Love the backstory and the deep platonic friendship between college roommates- typical Hong Kong girl Regina and flamboyant intergender American boy Siegfried, featuring in the second story 'Siegfried & The Avalance' set between New York, New Hampshire and Hong Kong, and the subsequent bonus essay at the end in 'Siegfried & Regina' set in Hanoi, Vietnam.
The eponymous title story 'The Proper Care of Foxes' is set in Somerset, England and Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Edward has been retrenched from his high-flying job at the bank and while on garden leave, he moved back to stay with his mother in a small village in Somerset in order to get over the shock of it and plan his next move. He renewed acquaintance with an old university mate, and offered a room at his mother's house to host Malaysian-Chinese girl Meg Tan who's visiting the country again. Bit strange, yet not really.
I found a very enjoyable story in 'Vanilla Five'. It's almost hilarious, in how the author portrayed the realities of life, failed marriages and fake friendships. Chance meetings and stepping out of her comfort zone gave the protagonist a renewed lease of life and strength to carry on after two miscarriages, a stalled career, a divorce, and an urgency to get a job to make rent on her apartment.
I knew what Meg was thinking. I could hear the tape playing in her head. I had fallen off the precipice and was now groveling in the dirt as one of the newly divorced, sleeping around indiscriminately with musicians, waiters, doormen, truck drivers.
She said, "But I worked so hard to convince Tom to come. He had to get a babysitter for his kids just to come to my party." Her voice rose to near scream, "Do you know how hard it is to get a babysitter on Halloween?"
"Yeah, but he's forty-five. I've got a twenty-two year old guy. The sex is incredible, Meg. You should try it." I was lying of course - Sato wasn't twenty-two, but he looked it. I was enjoying this hugely. Diane Keaton damned, I was now Demi Moore. I could feel Meg quivering at the other end of the line, and suddenly felt bad for her and her Banana Republic outfits. "Look, seriously now, I'm coming with Sato and his band. You'll like them. Didn't you use to like indie rock in college?"
"But what do I tell Tom?" wailed Meg.
"You must have another divorced thirtysomething woman friend in New York that you could invite. Don't even tell him there was a switch."
She considered. "That's true." She then began to blather happily about another woman she had thought of whom might work.
I hung up on her, glad that I had restored world peace, and went back to looking for a costume in Vanilla Five.