I did not make it all the way through this book. Which is strange, actually, because I quit pretty late in the game - a good 3/4 of the way through. Furthermore, I can't exactly say that I didn't like it, or that it's not a good book. But nonetheless, I just didn't wanna read it anymore.
The thing is, Li-Young Lee is a lovely poet. He crafts these beautiful images that I absolutely adore. This is marvelous when you're reading a poem that can fit on a page or two, but it's just not enough to sustain a book-length work of prose. Particularly when your images are so opaque. If a poem's meaning is elusive, couched in metaphors that I don't quite understand but think are very pretty, I don't mind. In a prose piece, however, I expect there to be some communication going on. I can only float in figurative la-la land for so long before I start getting a bit impatient.
I think the problem is exacerbated here because Lee is writing his life story. I get the sense that he's actually a rather private person who isn't particularly keen on penning a tell-all life narrative. So he doesn't want to write a straightforward I was born, then this happened, then this, then this kind of story. Rather, he weaves back and forth across time and place - and the man has moved around a LOT - picking up various threads and images as he goes. There's a kind of anguished engagement with the memory of his father running throughout the text as well. Now, this is all fine and good, but ultimately, one has the sense that Lee is writing the book in order to sort all this stuff out for himself, not because he particularly wants to tell the world about it. He talking to himself, not to any reader. And the book is thus highly inaccessible, and therefore, failed to sustain my interest. There are some beautiful moments, but the connecting tissue is too weak. Ultimately, you have the sense that there's raw material for a series of incredible poems in there, but it just doesn't hold up as a book. For me at least.