The Hundred Year Flood by Matthew Salesses [in Library Journal]
Lying in a Boston hospital with “rare brain damage,” Tee is working toward “reorienting him[self] to the world he’d never understood.” He is 22, a mixed-race Korean American adoptee, evacuated back home after a vicious attack in Prague, where he lived for nine months following 9/11. Haunted by his uncle’s contemporaneous suicide, Tee relocates in order to “leave the familiar behind.”
In Prague, he stands out as “the only Asian” and agrees to model for a revolutionary artist. While trying to make sense of a disturbing revelation about his Korean birthmother, Tee gets involved with an older woman with whom he experiences the mythic, titular “hundred year flood.”
Verdict: Salesses, himself a Korean adoptee, writes extensively on adoption and race, topics prominently embedded here in this not-quite-bildungsroman, whose protagonist wavers between issues of identity, belonging, betrayal, and loss. Twelve years in the writing, the book has everything necessary for a spectacular story. Alas, Salesses’ otherwise articulate prose gets hampered by cumbersome imagery (especially tiresome are repetitive references to filling and emptying his personal “container”), superfluous narrative threads, and inconsequential minor characters who do little more than interrupt.