You know what? I'm too negative. Yes, this is a terrible novel that never should have been published and owes its success exclusively to the fact that the cover bears the name of a famous ideologue. But it's not all awful. There are little moments here and there, and one of them closes out the chapter.
This one takes place at the "community's Authority building," so I was wrong - there's actually a third location we visit, albeit for this one scene and never again.
The Central Authority building had a smell like moss, old shoes, and wet grass. The light was dim and the workers looked pale and dull.
That's a decent description, getting a lot of information in without laying it on too thick. The smell makes sense to me - a lot of buildings in China have that aroma (though not government buildings so much, which are more antiseptic).
|Dirty, melting snow doesn't help.|
And then we get this little moment with the file clerk:
She leaned forward across the counter that separated us and whispered, "I am so sorry for your loss."
I felt a rush of love for this stranger. She touched my hand, then quickly pulled away. A warmth lingered where she hade made contact.
The clerk didn't really do anything here, but that's the point. A person starved of interpersonal contact may exaggerate any tiny gesture offered to her. The perfunctory expressions of sympathy that inspire an eye roll from most of us register as far grander acts in the mind of a lonely soul.
You see that, Ms. Parke? That's subtlety. That's what happens when you hint at something without clobbering the reader over the head with it.
Only time will tell if this was a fluke or if she genuinely learned a lesson. (Future me: Fluke, definitely)