Abel’s accomplished debut novel centers on Llamalo, a beautiful wilderness area in the Colorado Rockies. Once home to Native Americans, then to ranchers, by the late 1980s it’s a utopian camp run by the charismatic Caleb Silver, whose mission is to teach people how to live authentically and simply. His task is complicated by Llamalo’s former owners, who want the land back, and by his cousin, Rebecca. Daughter of the publisher of a radical newspaper, Rebecca sees life as a series of progressive causes, but her time at the camp introduces her to a range of new people, experiences, and ideas which, along with the political events that transpire throughout the ‘80s and ‘90s, both test Rebecca’s idealism and help her to re-invent herself.
Now available in paperback, Ko’s first novel won the 2016 PEN/Bellwether Prize for Fiction, was a finalist for the National Book Award, and landed on innumerable Best of the Year lists. Unfolding in New York and China, the narrative follows the experiences of a mother and son separated by brutal immigration laws. Polly came to America alone and undocumented, but her son was born in the U.S. One day she goes to work and disappears. Seemingly abandoned, her eleven-year-old son is adopted by a white couple. Renamed and relocated from the city to the country, the boy grows up confused and angry. Written with deep compassion for people caught in circumstances that offer no good choices, Ko’s novel is an invaluable contribution to the national debate on immigration.