Review: Thai Connections

I’ve never met or spoke with Cory Howell, but after reading Thai Connections on his website I can hear his voice. Cory tow-hitches the reader in the first paragraph with a scene where he and two siblings zoom through the Thai countryside in a pickup truck. As a reader, I enjoyed his use of sensory descriptions to immerse me in the story – “we could smell the storm,” “…as if he were navigating a ship at sea.” The imagery worked well for me as a reader that has never traveled to Thailand but could relate due to word choice.

I may be incorrect in this criticism but I felt the second paragraph took me out of the story (scene) which suggests to me there should be a break using the “#” or “**” to take the reader into the past when his half brother was a baby.

I’m curious why the siblings are labeled as “Little Brother” and “Older Brother”; perhaps to keep the identities private – if so maybe using a nickname will keep the sentences flowing. The need for a nickname was solidified when Cory wrote “Younger Brother” instead. There were a couple of line edits that are easy fixes, but structurally I thought it was solid.

The Rage Against the Machine music was interesting and I’m not sure if there’s more subtext to this due to the Thai politics – coup d’état of 2014, and the 2007 constitution revocation. How would that music be viewed? Also, it spoke to Cory’s father and his character (i.e. – Anti-authoritarian and revolutionary political views). I felt like this anecdote could be explored more since it is compelling information and subtext.  

The “Song Kran” details were rich with cultural nuggets that pulled me, as a reader, emotionally. I felt that “Little/Younger brother” and the narrator were the most three-dimensional characters, which speaks to the dialogue depth and quality. I really like the idea of threading the story with water elements – the tension of the coming storm, the moisture sticking to the skin, the dense humidity, culminating in the water fight. “I felt like I was the only one that noticed the rain.” Perhaps Cory was baptized, or the water cleansed all sins. This is what will stay with me.