Hachette, $32.99 pb, 346 pp
Go to any suburban shopping centre and you will find a metropolis of consumption. ‘Buy, buy, buy’, it screeches, whether you are contemplating fast-fashion T-shirts, new-age solutions to age-old problems, or services and pampering you don’t really need, all in the harsh glare of white lights and a controlled climate, temperature just right. The shopping centre, uniform and tidy, is where you can get everything you’ve ever wanted while also getting nothing at all.
This is the setting of Jamie Marina Lau’s second novel, Gunk Baby. It follows Leen, a twenty-four-year-old woman who opens an ear-cleaning business in the Topic Heights shopping complex, nestled between display homes in the fictional US suburb of Par Mars. The traditional Chinese practice has been adopted from her mother; Leen aims to introduce it to a Western audience hungry for cultural exchange.