Reviews & Interviews

“Don Lee is a gift, and his latest novel, Wrack and Ruin, is magnificent: bold, beautiful, heartfelt, witty, broad of scope, and yet as intimate as love given, or love received.”
— Junot Díaz, author of The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao

Wrack and Ruin is a spectacular romp, one of those rare novels whose goofiness is matched by its gravitas. Don Lee is a master of the tightly woven plot; this book is nearly impossible put down, though at times you may have to pause out of sheer hilarity.”
—Jennifer Egan, author of A Visit from the Goon Squad

"Masterly...Brilliant farce conveys a sense of the characters' agony, and that is true here. But there are also moments of gentle joy, and the author's affection for this little corner of the world can be infectious....As richly satisfying as his first two books were (his other novel, "Country of Origin," won both an Edgar and an American Book Award), Lee has outdone himself here. His prose moves and sparkles. He gives his characters a depth and thoroughness not commonly achieved by practitioners of the comic novel, a label that seems almost a disservice to a book as thoughtful as this one. Lee shows us, right from the outset, that these are people we're going to care about, even if we do enjoy watching them flounder." —Steve Amick, The Washington Post

The author of Yellow (2001) and Country of Origin (2004) delivers another warmly humorous take on identity in this entertaining novel featuring Lyndon Song, a sculptor turned brussels-sprouts farmer. In his youth, Lyndon made it to the top of the cutthroat art world in New York City but soon tired of the egos, politicking, and harsh criticism. He gave it all up to settle in Rosarita Bay, California, a sleepy, foggy town ideal for organic farming. But his low-key lifestyle is threatened when a developer decides to build a golf course and needs Lyndon’s land to complete his deal. Lyndon’s long-estranged brother, Woody, a disgraced financier turned movie producer, makes a secret deal with the developer to work on Lyndon, but their wild Labor Day weekend visit changes both of them in unforeseen ways. An eccentric cast of secondary characters, including a fading Hong Kong kung-fu star and a perpetually stoned surfer, adds to the merriment in a highly appealing novel that swerves ever so gracefully from rollicking humor to poignant moments of reflection.
— Joanne Wilkinson
     Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved.

Publishers Weekly
The trick to reading Don Lee's wonderfully silly second novel (after Country of Origin and a story collection, Yellow) is to take nothing seriously, even when you should. The book concerns the eccentric sculptor-turned-brussels sprout farmer, Lyndon Song, and his estranged brother, Woody, an uptight Hollywood producer. Lyndon's refusal to sell his farmland to a golf course developer results in an unwelcome visit from his brother, who has been secretly hired by the developer. The author has corralled an array of misfits and minor characters—Lyndon's friend Juju, a philosophizing surfer with a prosthetic limb, and Yi Ling Ling, a has-been kung fu film star—to season the backdrop of the brothers' misadventures and muster up some drama and didactic spiritualism. The novel's best sections are lighthearted in their delivery, but hint at deeper substance and self-reflection. At times the author starts pulling too adamantly at readers' heartstrings, but before long he's back to slathering on the sarcasm. This novel thrives on unlikely unions, unseemly humor and happy endings while maintaining a constant examination of family and identity, in keeping with the themes of the author's previous book. (Apr.)
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A Bookseller
Lyndon Song is a Korean-Chinese farmer under siege by developers in a slowly gentrifying (from hippie to yuppie) Northern California town. He’s on the run from his fame as a sculptor, but what most people think is that he’s on the run from failure. In steps his brother Woody, who most definitely is on the run from failure, with an over-the-hill kung fu actress in tow, with whom he hopes to remake a classic Chinese action flick. But it turns out everyone in the story is either on the quest for fame and fortune or running from their efforts, failed or otherwise. And on top of that, Lee eloquently and humorous puts this achievement identity in the context of cultural identity and family identity.  Here’s the bottom line—I laughed out loud at some points and started tearing up at others. Lee made me think, and this wonderful novel is done, and I’m still thinking.  Honestly, what more can you want in a book? 
—Daniel Goldin, Owner, Boswell Book Company, Milwaukee