Cover Image: Welcome Me to the Kingdom

Welcome Me to the Kingdom

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date:

Member Reviews

Thank you to Netgalley and Random House for the eARC!

Welcome Me to the Kingdom tells the story of several pivotal characters as they live their lives through the decades in Bangkok. This book does not pass judgement, it simply shows the world through an unfiltered lens. It features a lot of heavy topics such as sex trafficking, abortion, drug and alcohol abuse, racial tensions, class distinctions, and much more. I really appreciated how the book took a step back and was able to present these topics in a way that the reader was left to make their own moral judgements.
However, what fell short for me was the characters. There are a lot of repeated characters throughout the narrative. While each chapter features a different story, sometimes they are just taken at different points from a character's life. These characters, unfortunately, were difficult to connect with. A part of that may be because I have nothing in common culturally with these characters, but I was able to connect with the side characters. The midwife who does the abortion is one character that stood out to me because I was able to understand her motivations and how her life events influenced who she became. and there's only one story that exists to tell her life. However, that does not exist for the rest of the characters, and those that have some sort of connection do not fill the narrative as much as I would've liked them to.
Overall though, I did enjoy this book and thought that it did a great job of portraying a human experience and helped me see the world through the different lenses these characters had to offer.

CW; abortion, death, sexual assault, sex trafficking, child abuse. (not an exhaustive list)

Was this review helpful?

A richly evocative novel comprising interlocking short stories about the people of Bangkok and the city itself. It's not a tidy collection nor does it flow and it's possible to lose track of who is who but Nardone obviously cares for her characters. Thanks to Netgalley for the ARC. It helps, I think to have spent a bit of time in this sprawling city which is faced with so much and which has such a diverse population, It's a very good read.

Was this review helpful?

I enjoyed the writing and the characters that were created in this collection of stories. This is a unique way to tell three stories and although I appreciate that fact, I found a lot of the book to be depressing and it wasn’t really a compelling read for me. Thank you NetGalley for allowing me to read and review an advance copy of this book.

Was this review helpful?

A series of stories that center around three families in Thailand. I personally struggle with stories that weave together to tell a sort of story. If you like more unconventional storytelling, this would be good for you.

Was this review helpful?

Globally known as one of the most popular tourist destinations, Mai Nardone, has created a collection of stories that pulls back the curtain on the myth of "Amazing Thailand." Going as far back as the story of The King and I, people have been drawn to this small exotic country, never colonized, and filled with delights for everyone. From the cuisine to the pristine beaches, Europeans, Americans, and now the Chinese flock to the magical experiences Thailand offers.

A surge of foreigners filled the hotels and bars of Bangkok during the Vietnam war. Thus began a century of publicity that fed the seedy side of Thai life with foreign men looking for cheap thrills from Patpong Road to Phuket beaches. Tales of living like royalty on a Thai baht (tied to the dollar) lured thousands and millions to the Kingdom every year. The 1997 financial crisis dragged the value of the baht to practically nothing, and people's lives were ruined. The stories are based on this economic disaster, before and after the crash.

This collection vividly illustrates the reality behind the fantasy that was and continues to be Thailand. The characters present the vast distance between the rich and the poor in a country where only recently has a middle class clawed itself into existence. Thailand has the largest wealth gap in the world. The rich of Thailand are some of the wealthiest in the world. The poor of Thailand are the majority and continue to struggle, both in the rural countryside and in Bangkok, where they migrate, trying to survive and even live a better life. It isn't apparent when you arrive in the "Land of Smiles," but spend some time to know the real-life stories of the people you meet, and you will find heartbreaking struggles and hardships. Welcome Me to the Kingdom is not easy to read, but the author is brilliant at telling the real story through his richly drawn characters.

Many thanks to the author, publisher, and NetGalley for the advanced copy of the book.

Was this review helpful?

The author weaves stories that recount tales that swing between desperation and hope. In a country that is suffering economic and social upheaval people are forced into tenuous situations to make life work. Despite all the hardships the characters are still willing to give it their best shot.

Was this review helpful?

I'm conflicted about this one. I felt that it started off strong and then I proceeded to lose interest in each character's story. The writing felt long winded and lacked substance. The writing paired with the general tone of oppression and lack of character development did not make for an enjoyable experience. This had a lot of potential as it is unique in its setting, however, may have been more suited to be in more of a novel format instead of short stories.

Was this review helpful?

This loosely connected collection of short stories describes various aspects of life in Thailand, from the sex trade, orphaned “strayboys”, cock fighting, drug use, ambulance chasing, corruption, tourism and ex-pats.
I found this book very difficult to read and get interested in. I know several reviewers enjoyed it but I found it to be very disjointed and hard to follow. Even trying to follow some of the main characters over time had me lost. And I guess the book is realistic but it’s very depressing and paints a grim picture of Bangkok. Even if a book is written more as literary fiction without much plot, I enjoy good character development but this book just didn’t have anything for me. Thanks to NetGalley and Random House Publishers for the Advanced Reader Copy.

Was this review helpful?

Overall, welcome Me to the Kingdom was a great short story collection. I did have some qualms with the sexually graphic descriptions, as well as the sometimes confusing relation between stories. I did enjoy the depiction of Bangkok in all its gritty glory.

Was this review helpful?

I was able to complete the first story of this collection and the writing is definitely beautiful but I should have examined the synopsis more closely before requesting this book. The sexual content, while I’m sure holds great purpose for the story, was too much for my own personal reading tastes so I will not be finishing it. Thanks for the opportunity!

Was this review helpful?

Welcome Me to the Kingdom is an incredibly detailed look at three families in Bangkok as they find ways to survive through a financial disaster and all that life throws at them. Family, culture, and negotiating peace in your relationship with both are mainstays throughout the novelization. We meet a group of young orphaned boys, doing what they can to survive in a corrupt neighborhood where payoffs are the rule instead of the exception, a mother and daughter abandoned by the patriarch of the family when he retreats back to the United States, and the daughter of a local Elvis impersonator at the center of a bar benefitting from the endless cultural tourism that instantly yearns to look back at its often American roots.

Nardone writes with captivating detail, creating a lush—albeit often grim—landscape fundamentally interwoven with the characters themselves. While the stories aren't linked in an overly direct way, they brush against one another, adding another level of depth to Nardone's portrait of Bangkok. While the individual vignettes were engrossing, I struggled with the format. It was easy to cross the stories with one another when first introduced to them, and reading on an e-reader makes it cumbersome to flip back to prior chapters and check names and years to get a better grip on the sense of time passing. Jumping back and forth between stories in the way they were arranged was just jarring enough to take me out of the story and keep the flow going that would've truly let these characters come alive.

Was this review helpful?

An immersive story but convoluted at times. I had difficulties following who was who at times. But overall, a great read.

Was this review helpful?

A beautiful debut novel. The story spans decades and follows the threads of several different characters within family and friend circles that often will interconnect with one another. It read a lot like a collection of short stories would. Each chapter felt like a distinct story but they all layer together well throughout the whole. The stories are about people living in Bangkok in Thailand and paint a good picture of what it was like there throughout the timeline of the novel. I did find myself wishing some of the character arcs had better closure and it was almost a DNF after the second chapter was a second-person POV that was rather, uh, shall I say sexual and gross in nature, but luckily that was the only instance of both that type of POV and the character.

Thank you to the publisher and Netgalley for the ARC!

Was this review helpful?

There aren't many books I've seen out there about Southeast Asia and Thailand specifically, so I was very drawn to this title and the fact that it was contemporary and not so focused on the historical fiction aspect. It provided insight into dynamics in Thailand that I was both aware and not aware of, and I was able to start conversations with my mother about some of the things I read as she can speak and understand Thai. Thailand is often seen as this exotic oasis for young white backpackers to explore the nightlife, beaches, and ride elephants. This novel gives you almost an inside perspective on a reality or realities in Thailand that aren't often seen.
While reading this I was reminded of a documentary I had watched a number of years ago called 'Heartbound' that followed the stories of Thai women (often underaged) engaging in sex work and marrying white men from America and Europe for security. The story of Nam is just that, but complicated further by the other people in her life and her daughter. Something I was not aware of, which was a small part of the novel, included the large population of Muslims in Thailand and the discrimination they face from Buddhists. Welcome Me to the Kingdom offers a complex, multifaceted and contemporary story of a country that is renowned but still unknown in many ways.

Was this review helpful?

I finally read this one as I developed my love-hate relationship with Bangkok during a trip to Thailand. I would not have appreciated the nuances of this book without my own experiences of the contradictions and complexities of Bangkok. Rich and poor, expats and locals, tourism industry and survival. All of these tensions are captured beautifully in these intertwined short stories.

My only complaint is that I did find it hard to follow who was who at times, but that’s an issue I have with all books that use this structure. I get so immersed in some stories and then lose the thread of others.

Otherwise, I highly recommend this to anyone who has been to Bangkok or wants a taste of the reality of Thai life. An insightful gem.

Was this review helpful?

Book: Welcome Me to the Kingdom

Author: Mai Nardone

Rating: 2 Out of 5 Stars

I would like to thank the publisher, Random House, for providing me with an ARC.

I'm going to be honest. I tried to get into this one and I could not. It had nothing to do with the stories or the writing. It was just simply a matter of this not being for me. I found myself drifting away from the story and thinking about other things. I know that this is a collection of short stories. I found the fact that the fact that this is supposed to be over the course of several years and the fact that the characters did not age to be a little odd. I would have liked to have seen this happen.

In this collection of short stories, we follow a three families in Thailand, who are trying to make their mark in the world. They are trying to control their own destinies and will stop at nothing to make sure that they get what they want. They are down on their luck and are finding themselves forced into situations that they normally would not be. Normally, these are the kinds of stories that I eat up. However, again, there was something about this one that did not work for me.

I like the idea of reading stories that normally do not take place in the Western world. I like learning about different cultures and beliefs. I like seeing characters in the non-Western setting. Again, it just did not work for me. The stories are actually well put together and thought out. It’s just a shame that I found myself not being pulled into them.

One thing that I did really like about the stories though was that it did not paint the best picture of life in Thailand. I know that sounds really messed up, but the we get to see how these people do have real struggles and have to face real challenges. All of this gives us a very real feeling and gives us a reason to care about what is happening to the characters. However, this was not enough to save the story for me. I needed just a little bit more drive everything home.

Overall, I think that this was the case of this just not being the book for me. I see the appeal of it.

This book comes out on February 14, 2023.

Was this review helpful?

This is an intense case of, "I'm not sure if the problems I have are due to the book itself or the fact that it's just not for me." I'm super open to it being the latter. Although the stories in this collection succeed in evoking a sense of Thailand over the course of several decades that would be relatable to people who have been there (I would imagine - I've only been there once briefly, on vacation) and make people who have never been to Thailand feel like they're there, ultimately the stories feel like they lack a sense of purpose. Although some of the same characters are followed over the course of decades, they never really grow. Maybe that's the point, but it's not working for me. The characters are all miserable, and mostly unlikeable. Every father is abusive. Every woman uses sexuality as currency, whether by choice or through lack of other choices. Everyone is miserable; they either start miserable and end miserable, or start hopeful (rarely) and end miserable. Either way, it ends up being a slog following people who never really seem to change or grow.

Was this review helpful?

This novel was written well and seamlessly transitioned from each character's perspective from three different families in freshly laid out snippets of their lives. The families, struggles, and settings were also unique to the main plot but were woven together like a fine tapestry.

My only issue with the book as a while was that I felt as if I needed more from each family and wasn’t one-hundred percent involved in their struggles as their backstories weren’t as developed as I would have liked. Less is usually more, but in this case, I needed a bit more substance to complete each story within the novel.

Overall, this book was a joy to read, and I would recommend this to anyone who enjoys an immersive novel with a complex cast of characters.

The publisher provided ARC via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Was this review helpful?

Certainly not uplifting, but certainly powerful stories here that will stick with readers for a very long time. This is not for the faint of heart, but for those that pick this up, it contain memorable writing and stories.

Thanks very much for the free ARC for review!!

Was this review helpful?

Welcome Me to the Kingdom explores Thailand and its harsh realities: poverty runs through each short story, exposing how citizens try to overcome it, in an effort to build a better life. In the end, it presents a dark overview of Thai life and its population’s struggles. Whether it’s trying to make a living through the sex tourism industry or by relying on fighting chicken, the characters show gumption in their quest for a better life. However, the stories are far from uplifting and pressent a dark picture of the country, where corruption and overwhelming poverty remain unsurmountable barriers.

Thank you to Random House and NetGalley for the ARC.

Was this review helpful?