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Book review: Fiction debut exposes dark side of Thailand

Mai Nardone's short story collection gives a nuanced view of the country

"Welcome Me to the Kingdom," Thai American author Mai Nardone's debut story collection, portrays the lives of a handful of recurring characters. (Nikkei montage/Photos courtesy of Mai Nardone) 

"We came with the drought. From the window of the train, the rich brown of the Chao Phraya River marked the turn from the northeast into the central plains. We came for Bangkok on the delta. The thin tributaries that laced the provinces found full current at the capital. And in the city, we'd heard, the wealth was wide and deep."

There is a subtle disconnect in the prologue of Mai Nardone's brilliant fiction debut, "Welcome Me to the Kingdom." The anonymous narrator, a migrant traveling by train into the capital for the first time, has high hopes that the city's riches will offer a dignified future. Safe in the knowledge that the talismans he carries from his village will keep the evils of the city at bay, but unable to decode this "foreign" world, he takes a banal message on a tourism banner as evidence that life is about to become easy.

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