This is a book report on Potential Weapons by Jocelyn Lieu. Liu’s story – or rather the stories that make up this collection – is a combination of these different forms of quest. We understand that she is both engaged in a process of loss and a process of discovery. Both aspects of the discovery of her identity are painful.
And finally there is what might be seen as fundamentally a reverse quest – a journey meant not to gain possession of something but to lose something, to shake off a bewitchment. Exorcisms are, after all, quests too, for journeys that seek to free the traveler of some great evil along the way may also be seen as quests.
Liu’s story – or rather the stories that make up this collection – is a combination of these different forms of quest. We understand that she is both engaged in a process of loss and a process of discovery. Both aspects of the discovery of her identity are painful. The losses are what seem to hurt her the most – at least at first, as she tells us in the title story of the collection:
First to fade were the names, then the faces, until she couldn’t be sure the people once called family ever really existed. Sometimes, when she wandered through Chinatown, she wondered whether this middle-aged man or that young mother with the sullen girl was related to her. Relatives. Strangers. There was no way to know.
When Abi begins the process of trying to connect her own present to that of her family’s past, all she can see is the connections that have been broken, the losses of continuity that lie as barriers between her and everyone in her family who came before her. She is adrift, and the waters are rising and the boat of her own identity, her own sense of self, is hardly seaworthy.
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