Thursday, February 13, 2014

The Plain of Bitter Honey by Alan Chin

The reviewer, Edward C. Patterson, happens to be a noted historian and a gifted novelist with more than a dozen published books.

5 out of 5 stars

A Riveting Saga and a Powerful Dystopian Tale

When political pundits disregard social issues in favor of economic or foreign policy, I have often considered it a ploy to disguise their real motives. Bread and circuses has always been the tool of those who rule, while attempts to wipe the slate clean of the opposition and to scapegoat the socially unrepentant is a classic trend. It’s as real as the 20th Century and has been a theme in many works. However, Alan Chin’s The Plain of Bitter Honey is a unique voice from this quarter. He anchors us to the spirit of two brothers (identical twin), who are a dichotomy of a single soul, split and blended, and growing unflinchingly in the horrible situation surrounding it. In the course of the brutality pervading this near-future America, brutal to both the afflicted and the afflicters, Mr. Chin gives us a firm sense of the past repeating itself.

The Plain of Bitter Honey is a refuge to be sought and to be abandoned — an ideology suffocated by its own existence in a world of hypocritical rulers and cannibalistic offshoots. Embracing it are the Swann brothers, who live in the vast freedom of their own bond. Mr. Chin gives us an unrelenting, breath-taking work, sympathetically beautiful and riveted to an unhinged life, which could realistically evolve if we allow prejudice and obsession to overtake a sense of humanity. Despite its powerful pace, the novel is character driven and superbly written. Mr. Chin always makes strong statements in his work, but The Plain of Bitter Honey, to this reader, is his most powerful to date.