On Nobody Ever Gets Lost:


“Nobody Ever Gets Lost is that rare work which can boast both focus and scope. It is a powerful book, raw and shrewd and brave. If the categorical assertion of the title is true, it must be because the world only ever moves in one direction: forward. Visions of purity—ethnic, religious, national, or other—are always reactionary and will always fail. Restoration of the past is impossible, and calling for it merely exposes the weak soul’s fear of the future.”

Corduroy Books

“I read half of this book with my back on the ground and my feet up on the couch and felt fundamentally shifted somehow on finishing the book, and the shift had primarily to do with feeling like I’d been slowed. This gets weird and dicey quickly, because what I’m talking about is the magic way stories can actually make us better people. Do stories owe us that? That’s a debate I don’t think matters here. But for sure what good stories have to do, on some level, is offer a new view to our usual lives, however that happens. And I’d like to here push Nobody Ever Gets Lost as one of those hugely offering books, one of those which throw open doors you don’t even know you need opened.”

Library Journal

“Ranging from provocative to naïve, the characters in this richly nuanced story collection struggle with questions of faith and identity and desperately attempt to locate their place in the post-9/11 world.”


“As a collection, Nobody Ever Gets Lost is, simply put, stunning. Pick it up, enjoy it, spread the word. This is writing to be delighted by and a writer to look for more of.”

Fiction Writers Review

“The details of these stories are indelible, and their revelations often leave the reader slightly breathless.”

Palm Springs Desert Sun

“One of the many things I admire about Row’s work is his willingness to ask questions when there are no sure answers to be found.”

Sycamore Review

“Jess Row has a remarkable ability to evoke empathy in the reader for his characters, to spark vivid connection between ourselves and these raw, whole, complicated lives on the page. To put it simply, his work caused me to think about the world and the people around me in a new way. It may be true that when beginning a Jess Row story you don’t know what to expect – you can’t typecast where it will take place or the characters it will center around – but you can expect that his stories will challenge you, move you, and stay with you long after you have turned the final page.”

Hipster Book Club

“[Nobody Ever Gets Lost] explores universal themes of grief and alienation…touching and tragic.”

NewCity Lit

“In seven psychologically nuanced stories spanning from rural Thailand to the South Bronx, Row tackles the intersection between violence and belief: where does extremism come from? What do abstract convictions look like when you make them concrete?”

The Rumpus

“In these daring stories, Row inhabits seven individuals trying to make sense of a world shaken by September 11th. Spanning Southeast Asia and the United States, Row grapples with questions of identity, religion, and extremism, exploring how we manage (or fail) to co-exist in a post 9/11 world.”

Paper Trails (WNPR, Hartford, CT)

“This is a book of stories about the dangers of telling stories…I was very impressed by the seeming artlessness of Row’s style—that he created the effects he did without reaching for a literary toolbox of fancy metaphors.”

New Jersey Monthly:

“Throughout seven quiet but finely observed tales, characters of different ethnicities, ages and sensibilities rub up against fundamentalism, most of it religious, in the post 9/11 world…Nobody Ever Gets Lost confirms Jess Row’s sterling reputation.”

Granta interview (2/28/2010)

“I think what I’m most drawn to in writing about this subject is the way in which very small, intimate acts of violence (not even necessarily physical violence) often serve as a microcosm or incubator for the massive, cataclysmic violence we see all around us in the world.”

Ploughshares interview (5/7/2009)

“I had a lot of fun writing “Lives of the Saints,” actually. It didn’t feel like work. I love New York, but because I’m not from the city, I don’t take the setting for granted, as some writers do (by necessity). And these two young people are very close to my heart, misguided as they are. They have a great deal of courage; in some ways I wish I had that kind of courage. But not the naïvete that goes along with it. Working on this story was really a refuge from other things I was supposed to be doing; not that it wasn’t hard—writing any story is hard—but I didn’t notice it at the time.”

Up Front (from The New York Times Book Review, 9/9/2007)

“These stories are all about the aftermath of Sept. 11, sometimes in direct and sometimes in oblique ways. They’re bound together by a concern about the connection between intimate betrayals and misunderstandings and the abstractions that lead to violence. I’d like to write comic novels instead, but my work always tends to veer more toward the territory of mourning, in one way or another.”

BookFox interview (5/30/2007)

“From my own perspective as a Buddhist, I think that working as a fiction writer involves building models of karmic processes and watching how they play out.”

On The Train to Lo Wu:

Gotham Writers Workshop interview (2005)

“…it’s very important to me that whatever questions the story raises—about race and affirmative action, about the relationship between men from one society and women from another, about Zen practice—aren’t just left up in the air by the end. Sometimes that happens naturally; sometimes it takes a lot of effort to weave those issues into the story without sounding pedantic or interrupting the drama. Ultimately the encounter between these characters in this particular situation has to take precedence over everything else.”

“In these linked stories about Hong Kong Jess Row has been able to locate the very heart of modern spirituality in this most commercial of cities. Buddhist monks and nuns, proud lovers, failed painters, the haunted daughter of a suicidal mother, a philosopher–all of these people living on the edge have found their way to Hong Kong. The East and the West, sure–but also the sacred and the profane. The writing is surgical in the sense that an ancient Chinese butcher who had attained enlightenment could prepare various cuts without ever touching the meat; his knife passed effortlessly though the natural spaces, just as Row’s pen articulates even the strangest, most elusive feelings without distorting them. This is a debut that feels like a crowning achievement.”

— Edmund White

“In crystalline prose, Row animates intriguing characters and dramatizes subtle yet emblematic conflicts as he traces the vast cultural divides between America and Hong Kong…He neatly and devastatingly contrasts dueling visions of faith, art, love, and freedom.”

— Booklist

“From New York to Hong Kong, Jess Rows stories take us to worlds that are both familiar and strange. It is rare to find the spirit and mind combined so deftly as in these stories. This is a magnificent collection.”

— Charles Baxter

“In sharp, lucid prose, Row molds a landscape of human error and uncertainty, territory well-aligned with the eerie topography of his space-age city.”

— Publisher’s Weekly

“These seven short stories about Hong Kong people by a young American writer are not only subtle, skilful, and above all exceptionally thoughtful: They could well be the finest fiction ever to have appeared in English about the city. It’s no exaggeration to say that The Train to Lo Wu is comparable in many ways with James Joyce’s Dubliners, equally disillusioned stories about another city where things are not always what they seem.”

—Taipei Times

“Jess Row’s The Train to Lo Wu leaves me almost speechless…Many writers have managed to describe Hong Kong, but few have as a deft a touch with the Hong Kong people, real people, with the cadences of Hong Kong English, with the gestures, body language and internal contradictions of the people of this place…Row, who taught at Chinese University from 1997 to 1999, seems to have captured in this short time what it is about Hong Kong that makes this city so frustrating, yet also so hard for so many of us to leave.”

—The Asian Review of Books

“Over and over, these beautifully crafted stories drew me in with their quietly persuasive voices, their meditative detail, and their subtly heart-rending plots. An auspicious debut from a talent set to endure.”

— Peter Ho Davies

“An impressive debut from an admirably protean storyteller…Row’s characters are a mixed bunch, but all are effortlessly convincing, and he handles gritty suspense quite as well as he does the problems of lovers. This Whiting Award-winning author has a very bright future.”

— Kirkus Reviews

“Row’s stories are subtle…and fascinating.”

— Entertainment Weekly

“Jess Row writes with elegance and freshness in prose that sounds a depth of feeling. These stories are poems in themselves, haunting in their clarity and sympathies. They achieve a kind of stillness that seems appropriate for their Chinese setting. I can hardly imagine a more forceful or memorable debut.”

— Jay Parini

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