The short fictions in Rea Tarvydas’ debut collection collectively capture various versions of the expat life that share the feeling of being between two worlds, the experience of being neither here nor there and trying to find a way to fill that space.
The stories follow a kind of “life cycle” of expatriates in Hong Kong, a place often called the “most thrilling city on the planet”. From the hedonistic first days in “How To Pick Up A Maid in Statue Square”, as Fast Eddy instructs on how best to approach Filipina maids on their rest day, through the muted middle in “Rephrasing Kate”, as Kate encounters a charismatic bad boy and is forced to admit her infidelities, to the inevitable end in “The Dirty Duck”, as Bill realizes his inability to commit and resolves to return home to Australia — Hong Kong alters each of these characters with its frenetic mixture of capitalism and exoticism.
Characters exist between the worlds they once knew and this place which now holds them in its spell and shapes them to its ends. Their stories explore how they cope with this space where loneliness and alienation intersect, a place where insomniac young bankers forfeit their ambition by chasing deviant sexual encounters, or consume themselves with climbing the corporate ladder. It is a world where passive domestics live and work for the money they can send home, while their keepers assemble poolside to engage in conversations aroused by the expats’ desire to connect to others who share their fates.