Beauty Plus Pity: the title comes from Nabokov's definition of art, reminding us that beauty is fleeting and that "the world dies with the individual." Malcolm Kwan's world collapses around him when two life-changing events happen in quick succession - his father dies and his fiance leaves him. Malcolm was born shortly after his parents immigrated to Vancouver from Hong Kong. He is now an aimless twenty-something pursuing a modelling career for lack of a better idea of what to do with his life. Hadley, a younger half-sister that Malcolm didn't know about until the day of his father's funeral, becomes a catalyst for change. Thanks to her, Malcolm is drawn out of his self-absorption and begins to pay more attention to the people around him.
Canadian author Kevin Chong has an ear for the inherent humour in human foibles. Beauty Plus Pity will appeal to readers interested in themes of identity, family secrets and the immigrant experience.
Readalikes: Anything by Douglas Coupland; Money Boy by Paul Yee (for the Chinese immigrant identity and family relationships); Someday This Pain Will Be Useful to You by Peter Cameron (for the feeling of malaise as a young man sorts out his future, as well as the humour and family dynamics); and maybe Shortcomings by Adrian Tomine (which is in graphic novel format, and explores ethnicity and desire with an understated, spare style).