Three Ways to Get Rid of Allergies takes us on six adventures into locked or broken spaces. We peer into the dark houses, haunted toilets, and cracked bedrooms of the author’s rural hometown of Changhua, where we find squelched desire, unspoken pain, and frustration on great and small scales. Flannery O’Connor would have understood and admired Kevin Chen for all the uncomfortable humanity he has found beneath the surface of the mundane.
The six stories of Three Ways to Get Rid of Allergies explore several different areas in which “the injury of the other,” as one critic claimed, is clearly felt. We witness an old woman’s slow descent into insanity in her lonely house (“Ghosts in the Toilet”), participate in the bitter clash of egos among school children, and feel the frustrated desires of a transgendered individual in a town too small for anonymity. Chen celebrates the stunted and unfinished – or, if he doesn’t celebrate it, he accepts it as an inevitable aspect of human life.
Prepare for a strong dose of rural reality in Kevin Chen’s first collection of short stories since his celebrated novel Attitude. The only way out is escape.