Grand Stories Told From the Periphery of Loss with Grace Chao

March 6, 2024

Photo by Henry Chen.

Something goes terribly wrong for one family in Grace Chao’s short story “Family Travel.” A train hits a couple’s small blue car — stopped on the train tracks going from Taipei to the Taiwanese port city Kaohsiung — leaving their orphaned newborn to the care of grandparents.

Chao’s story focuses not on the family at the heart of this tragedy, however, but on a Taiwanese American family on the train, who, like everyone else in the stuffy compartment, have not been told what’s happened. Although this family is ostensibly at the periphery of the misfortune, the next several hours on the halted train prove calamitous. One daughter’s violin cracks in the heat, setting off the father’s rage. Years later, the violinist and her sister look back on this scene as the traumatic genesis of the anger visited on them by their father from then on.

But for the father, Chao writes, the moment conjures a different memory: of the man sitting next to him, holding a bonsai tree. He is moved “that one could love a barely living thing so much.”

Read the full article here via The Provincetown Independent.

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