Cover Image: When I'm Gone, Look for Me in the East

When I'm Gone, Look for Me in the East

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Member Reviews

If you are looking for a book to savor and enjoy having the experience linger on your pallet, let this be your next read. I picked it out on a whim, the good things I heard about We Ride Upon Sticks in the back of my mind. This book is quite unique and is both a literal and figurative journey.

A group of five monks is traveling across Mongolia in search of the next child who is the reincarnation of a holy lama. Two of the travelers are telepathic identical twins, Chuluun and Mun. At a young age, Mun was chosen as a reincarnated leader, but he abandoned his role, while Chuluun continues his journey as a monk. Chuluun narrates the story and reaches back into the past to help give us context. Mun’s thoughts often break through as well due to their telepathy. The brothers offer two opposite poles as they struggle to fulfill their destinies.

Full of Mongolian culture and Buddhist traditions, the book is mesmerizing. Quan writing is lyrical, poetic and descriptive.I loved getting to know the diverse terrain of Mongolia as the group travels from the grasslands to the frigid mountains to the desert. Mongolia is definitely its own character here. I loved learning about the history, including Genghis Khan’s rule from a more positive light when compared to the more recent communist rule that destroyed monasteries and killed monks.

Reading this book was a very rewarding experience and I highly recommend it!

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I just finished reading Quan Barry's "When I'm Gone, Look for Me in the East", and I have to say that it was just an absolute pleasure to read.
     The book tells the story of the monk Chuluun and his estranged identical twin Mun. They have taken very different paths in life (and can read each other's thoughts). Relationships are tested as they set out on a journey through Mongolia to find the reincarnation of a great Lama. The biggest character to me, was the landscape itself, so vast and changing, and producing quite an array of characters within it. 
       To me, it had a lot to do with changes in our world, accepting what is, our lives being about a bigger picture, brotherhood, and love. You can tell with Barry's writing that she has a  background in poetry, the words felt like revelations on the pages and left me feeling at peace by the end of the novel. Definitely recommend this one if you want to try something different from the usual fiction and go on your own journey

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This was good, but ultimately it was not for me. It felt a little too poetic and lyrical to allow me to easily follow the story. I think Quan Barry is an excellent story teller, but this just wasn't a hit.

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Every time I opened this book on my kindle, I wasn’t excited to read it at all. I’d slog through a couple chapters then have to go read the synopsis again, cause everything I’d just read didn’t seem to lead me anywhere. The setting of Mongolia is interesting and the research Barry put into this book shows through. I enjoyed reading about Buddhism and the monks in modern day and it feels very lyrical and philosophical, unfortunately the flow just didn’t work for me. I felt confused and unintelligent, which is ever a great reason to want to put a book down. When I’m Gone, Look For Me In The East is for a specific audience and I don’t think it was me this time.

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Otherworldly and mysterious. Esoteric and contemplative. Reading about monks in Mongolia who seek the reincarnation of an important teacher took me on a journey far from my life. The characters cross extreme landscapes of ice and snow, the scorching sands of the desert, visit the tents of reindeer herders and the bustling city of Ulaanbaatar. The monks aspire to an enlightenment most only receive upon death. Like us, they also struggle with doubt.

When I’m Gone, Look for Me in the East is a journey story. How Chuluun, a novice monk, is tasked to travel to the city and find his twin brother Mun, who left the monastery. With little Bat, they are to accompany Venerable Uncle to seek the the child who is a reborn teacher destined to bring the truth to the modern world.

Chuluun’s journey is also internal; he is anguished, lonely, uncertain. He finds himself near a woman for the first time since he was eight, the party’s cook Saran. His physic connection with his twin has been severed, but sometimes they can still enter each other’s minds as they had in early childhood, before the monks took them to the monastery when they were eight years old. Mun was identified as The Redeemer Who Sounds the Conch in the Darkness. But he had a rebelliousness and left, and now sports Western t-shirts, a phone and ear buds, leading tours for tourists.

Buddhism had been suppressed under the Soviets, their holy books and men destroyed. Likewise their history, dating to Chinggis Khan, was suppressed. These modern monks must reestablish the faith.

This world felt so real to me, Chuluun’s first person voice offering entry into his memories, observations, and recalled Buddhist teachings. We learn about the lives of the nomadic Mongolian peoples, their gers with electricity from solar energy or a generator and colorful painted furniture, the cuisine of mutton and turnip soup and marmot roasted from the inside with hot stones.

Buddhist teachings are densely woven into the story, guiding these characters. “When the only hope is a boat and there is no boat, we will become the boat,” Chuluun repeats to himself. What he learns over this journey brings insight that could change all our lives.

Thanks to A. A. Knopf for a free ARC.

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I thoroughly enjoyed this journey through modern Mongolia by a Buddhist monk, his apostate twin brother, a Tibetan woman, and two other holy men as they search for the reincarnation of a religious figure.

Don’t get too invested in the plot, however, as it mostly serves as a vehicle to explore Mongolia and its history, including Buddhism and other Mongolian religions, which were almost entirely stamped out during the Soviet Union but are making a comeback. Berry clearly had a life changing trip to Mongolia and wanted to explore and share what she witnessed through this story, and as someone who is fascinated with travel and places close to Mongolia like Kazakhstan, I really enjoyed the ride. The focus on Buddhism wasn’t of huge interest to me, but I did learn a lot and really understand the key tenants of the religion, moreso than before.

I also want to mention that the entire book is written in present tense, a fascinating choice that mostly worked, but did force me to reorient myself at certain points (past or present, etc).

Overall, a fascinating and educational journey into Mongolia. Very glad I read this, and it definitely got me interested in traveling there.

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Set in Mongolia, with a novice monk as the main character, this was a unique read for me. A group of traveling monks look for the child who is a reincarnated lama. (Is it terrible that makes me think of the movie The Golden Child?) The tangents added to the story but I found some difficulty following who was who in this nonlinear narrative. I'll say I learned more about the history of the area and Buddhist monks; however, while the author seems to have done a lot of research, I can't say if it represents the characters or not. The writing is magnificent, sometimes even quite immersive, especially the writing about the country. Unfortunately, I did not find the story or the way it was written to be engaging but I think many others will love this.

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I LOVE this book! I cannot stop thinking about it. It is beautifully written and I fell in love with every character. I wasn't expecting this book to affect me the way that it did.. It was like finding peace.

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A book that manages to be poetic, meandering and very matter of fact at the same time.
I felt the chapters were very abrupt and the story itself didn't flow very nicely.

However the subject matter was fascinating and I learned a lot about Mongolian culture and some more about Buddhism.
I don't regret reading it but it wasn't really a book for me, mainly because of the writing style.

If these topics interest you, you should pick it up, but beware it's not a fast-paced book, more of a quiet tale.

Thanks Netgalley for providing me with an eARC in exchange for an honest review.

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Pub date: 2/22/22
Genre: literary fiction
In one sentence: Tasked with finding the reincarnation of a great lama—a spiritual teacher who may have been born anywhere in the vast Mongolian landscape—the young monk Chuluun sets out with his identical twin, Mun, who has rejected the monastic life they once shared.

I wasn't sure what to expect when I picked this one up, but the beautiful writing sucked in me into this unusual story. Chuluun's description of his own story and the history of Mongolia were fascinating and unique. The dynamic between Mun and Chuluun also intrigued me, and I enjoyed learning about Buddhism through their stories. This is a slow-burn novel, but it transported me, and I'd recommend it if you enjoy immersive stories that make you think and take you away from daily life.

Thank you to Pantheon for providing a NetGalley ARC in exchange for an honest review.

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—w h e n i ‘ m g o n e . . .—⁣
Have you read any books by the same author this year? Who? ⁣
I read Quan Berry’s last book, We Ride Upon Sticks (which I loved!) back in January. While We Ride focused on a late 80s high school girls’ field hockey team, her next book took a sharp left turn to roughly present day Mongolia and the story of two estranged twin brothers bound to find the reincarnation of a famed Buddhist teacher. The book is told through the narration of Chuluum who is a monk. ⁣
I had no idea what to expect of When I’m Gone Look for Me in the East but I was drawn to it immediately because I had been so enamored with Berry’s artful prose. I was not let down. The writing here is beautiful, poetic, unique, and immersive. The characters are fully realized and the setting provides a fascinating backdrop (from rural desert to capital city).⁣
This book is slow. It is not a criticism, just a fact. The writing is lush and dense and the plot kind of crawls. Not for anyone looking for a bingeable page turner but an epic and beautiful read. I will read anything Quan Berry writes. Many bonus points for the chapter titles.⁣
Thank you @pantheonbooks and @netgalley for the free copy. This one is out now! ⁣

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When I'm Gone, Look for Me in the East is an unusual story mixing beautiful and detailed descriptions of Mongolia and the lives of twins who chose totally different paths in life. There are also quite a few explanations about Buddism and its view on life and death. Beautifully written, entertaining with plenty of food for thought.

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"Why do we need to believe our lives must add up to some great narrative, and what happens when we stop believing this?"
A lyrical, sweeping journey of two twins as they search for the reincarnation of a lama (think Dalai Lama) across Mongolia.
This is my first Barry and I’m wondering what took me so long? Her writing is absolutely exquisite. Not only will the descriptions of the natural world in this book have you ripping at each page, each chapter is incredibly short making the reading experience feel like a breeze..
Above all, the explorations of faith, duty, purpose and brotherhood are ON. THE. NOSE. I can’t tell you how many passages I highlighted with dozens of questions in mind. Why am I here, What does life mean? Am I doing what I’m supposed to? I’ll be ruminating on this one for a long time.

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Thanks to NetGalley and Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group for an egalley in exchange for an honest review

Set in Mongolia in 2015, this is the story of two estranged brothers(Chuluun and Mun)who set out across the country and have two weeks to find a reincarnated Buddhist teacher.

My thoughts:

(1) Author Quan Barry has a very poetic hand and there's plenty of beautiful examples of imagery. Yet, I couldn't really immerse myself in the narrative. The pacing just seemed uneven and even though the story is told by Chuluun's persepective, occassionally there was some confusion.

(2) A lot of research went into the making of this book and I believe the strength is certainly Barry's attempt to challenge the stereotypes that Western readers might have about Buddhist Monks. These monks use smartphones and iPads. “Many of us are on Facebook,” Chuluun says. They emerge as complex humans and the story is infused with Buddhist teachings.

(3) I haven't read many books set in Mongolia and it was nice to have a contemporary novel to explore.

Overall, my review is based on the difficulty I had in reading this egalley. It didn't work for me BUT I am sure other readers will find it delightful.

Publication Date. 22/02/22
Goodreads review published 27/02/22

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What an absolutely gorgeous and unique book! Quan Barry's best in my opinion. The quest was compelling, the writing poetic, and I was totally engrossed in the world created in such few pages. I highly recommend!

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I'm afraid that although the subject matter of this novel is interesting the storyline is too slow-going and a bit tedious.

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I just could not get into this book. It probably is me because there are a number of great reviews by others, but unfortunately this one did not keep me interested. It’s not bad, but the story just didn’t vibe for me. Thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for access for the review.

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This is a beautifully written and evocative novel about a quest- a quest for a lama and the quest for a sort of self enlightenment. Chuluun, who narrates, enlists his twin Mun who renounced his vows and left their monastery, to accompany him on a journey throughout Mongolia. This can be easily read as a fascinating look at the Reindeer People, the eagle hunters, and the herders of this vast region- the atmospherics are terrific and Barry has a way of bringing things to life. At the same time however there is of course a strong strain of Buddhist philosophy. Chuluun and Mun can read each other's thoughts so internal struggles are shared. The chapters are short and this actually makes them more impactful. No spoilers from me as to what they find and what is revealed. Thanks to netgalley for the ARC. Lovely book.

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To be honest, I became interested in this book after seeing some online hype for Quan Barry's last published work. However, when I read the description I became even more intrigued.

The story follows two brothers, twins, in Mongolia. One, a novice monk is on a quest to aid in seeking out the next reincarnation of an enlightened Buddhist teacher. The other twin, comes on the quest as well to help his brother. Prior to the trip, the two brothers had not seen one another for some time, not since one of them denounced the monastic life. As twins they are able to see one another's thoughts which complicates their relationship further.

The book reveals the doubts that the novice monk has about his path and the true feelings of his brother who has denounced the same path. Buddhist principles and teachings are woven throughout the text as well.

My rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

I really enjoyed this book. My first by this author, I was able to really relate to the doubts that the principle character was having about his path and many of the Buddhist principles interwoven into the story resonated with me as well. As an avid yoga practitioner, eastern philosophy is not completely foreign to me, but I enjoyed this fictional portrayal of the faith and learned a few things about Tibetan history too. In the beginning I had to look up a few words to understand the text, but to be honest I expect to do that when reading any book that centers around a culture not my own. One thing I loved was the very real human portrayal of people of faith. It can be easy to forget that people who have devoted their lives to a faith are just people too with the same emotions/feelings we all have.The bite-sized chapters were perfect also for reading in between other daily obligations. Lastly, with the incorporation of eastern philosophy principles, there was a lot that I'd love to discuss with other people so I think this would make a great book club read!

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I would like to say that I enjoyed this book but I was confused most of the time when reading it. The writing is excellent but the story felt disjointed to me. I'm sure this read will be loved by many. I did enjoy learning about the culture and practice of Buddhism as I read the story.. This just wasn't my genre.

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