This book hits you like a subway train. It starts abruptly, descends into the dark tunnel that is Jon’s life and leaves you stranded.
Jon is a victim of the city - the smoky, gritty, seedy-eyed mass of trash and wealth, immigrants and criminals. He leads a solitary life after his high-school sweetheart, Eris, heads off to pursue a college degree. Deeply committed, Jon pays for all her expenses, working a dishonest job and living off white rice and cigarettes. He keeps a knife in his pocket and fights the itch in his brain - that little voice who keeps telling him something is wrong.
Jon struggles to maintain hope in his malnourished, lonesome life. There is a photo of Eris is taped to his bedroom wall. He saves a little from every paycheck to one day quit his job, leave his circle of mediocre friends, and move far away from the city that is licking its lips, ready to swallow him whole. His dreams become compromised when the city suddenly begins to interfere with Jon’s plans.
The city is a malicious character in The Last Three, which grows and spreads like fungus. It thrives off the misdoings of street thugs, the crowd of numb subway commuters, the peddlers, salesmen and runaways. Chu writes with such microscopic detail, presenting amazing descriptive passages that invade all five senses. How else would you describe a hole-in-the-wall sushi bar on the outskirts of Chinatown?
“A brightly lit restaurant illuminated the dim alley-way and all its blemishes: broken shards of glass and plastic, pools of black water, forgotten garbage heaps and the occasional forgotten person. ‘Open’ a neon sign flashed repetitively. Streaks and oily finger prints marred the restaurant windows. The restaurant's plastic strip sign appeared to have been smashed by several bricks, though the sign's light was still lit. Nothing remained of the restaurant's name, though the very end of the sign was still intact. “ushi” it read.” -- Almon Chu
The Last Three reminds me of a modern day Edgar Allen Poe novella. It is a beautifully grungy tale of loss, betrayal, failed romance and utter defeat. Chu takes you into Jon’s world and peels back the tattered curtains. Reading his work was like inhaling a healthy dose of Dictionary soup. I loved the words, metaphors, interrupted dialogue, police sirens, cell phone blares, run-on sentences and one word sentences. It was visual food, a genuine piece worth reading.
(reviewed 25 days after purchase)