Fish in Exile by Vi Khi Nao, Coffee House Press, pp. 192
Fish in Exile, Vi Khi Nao’s debut novel, explores the depths of parental loss through the lenses of the two main characters, Ethos and Catholic. Both characters act as bookends to the often phantasmagoric journey of their emotional turmoil as they navigate the gauntlet of the loss of their two children, an extramarital affair, and even the psycho-sexual complexities of a Jocasta complex amidst the backdrop of the fragile architecture of a homemade aquarium and the constant presence of an unforgiving sea.
What unfolds is an intricate tapestry of raw emotional power charged with eroticism that manifests in surreal scenes wherein Ethos and Catholic become engines of loss, love, fear, humor, hate, and redemption. This power coupled with Nao’s intricate, defiant, introspective, and precise lyricism makes for a haunting read.
Occupying a myriad of spaces and spanning genres and mediums, Nao’s work is a multi-faceted examination of the intersecting spaces of the religious, the corporeal, the industrial, and the pastoral. Equal parts devastation and uncompromising beauty, Vi Khi Nao will undoubtedly remain a force to be reckoned with.