Monday, September 28, 2015

Book Review: "Still Life Las Vegas" by James Sie

When Walter was five years old, his mother left their family, driving away in her blue Volvo, and he never saw her again. Now 17, living a monotonous existence away from the Las Vegas strip and taking care of his bedridden father, he has spent the last 12 years searching for her, hoping that she'll someday mysteriously reappear in her life as quickly as she left it.

Working a dead-end job at a museum on Fremont Street, he has his whole life ahead of him but feels he has not much to live for. And then one day he meets Chrysto and Acacia, siblings who work as living statues at The Venetian. Their beauty and passion awaken something in Walter, and he suddenly finds himself looking forward to the end of work days so he can spend time in their presence. He also finds that Chrysto is making him feel things he never expected to, but isn't sure if he should trust anyone not to leave him.

James Sie's Still Life Las Vegas is more than just the story of a young man living under the specter of loss and abandonment. It tells the story of Emily, Walter's mother, and what led her to abandon her family, as well as the story of Owen, Walter's father, how he lost control of his life and his love, and how he ekes out an existence without both. It's also the story of how we shape the truth to help us cope, not realizing the ramifications that our version of the truth might have on others around us.

As you might imagine from the plot, this is a very moving story. Walter is a character you feel for, although you want him to strive for more, feel more, and begin living his life for himself. The emotion of the story is both complemented and supplemented by some beautiful comics-like illustrations by Sungyoon Choi, and at times, key moments in the plot reveal themselves through these illustrations.

My challenge with this book is the way it was told. Chapters fluctuate between Walter in the present, Emily from childhood through the moments after she makes the decision to leave, and Owen's search for his wife, but there isn't any linear order to the chapters, so I felt the story revealed itself in fits and starts, and at times it dulled some of its emotion. But while some of the discoveries Walter makes may not surprise, they still touch your heart, and his story finds its way inside your mind.


  1. Interesting.

    I got a review copy but haven't opened it. It was repped by my agent!

  2. If you do read it, I'd love to know your thoughts. I love your insights on the books you read and the movies you see, even if we often see things from different perspectives.