Manning, Edmond. “King Mai”, (The Lost and Founds #2), Pickwick Ink Press, 2013.
Catching a Break
Mai Keans just does fit in anywhere. He has a rough time even before he acknowledged his homosexuality and now he still cannot find acceptance or to get ahead. Things are rough financially and his parents are about to lose their farm.
As I read “King Mai” I began to wonder which genre it fits in. It has humor, erotica, mystery, adventure, characters and so on—something for everyone. Then I decided to forget that and just read to enjoy and enjoy I did. I think what really kept me reading was not knowing what would happen next. Mai has a lot of moxie and even though he was hurting inside, he stayed strong. I was at a bit of a disadvantage in that I did not read the first book in the Lost and Founds series, “King Perry” where the character of Vin Vably, the narrator of “King Mai” was introduced. Mai was from Thailand but he was adopted and living in DeKalb, Illinois. He is a loner and helps his family working on the farm that they are about to lose. However, Mai does not fit into the farming community but he loves farming. He is alone since his first love left him and he just does not enjoy life. He has been having a “chat affair” for the last six months with Vin Vably who he met online. Vin invites Kai for a weekend and he gladly accepts and the weekend they spent together mixed lies and laughs, manipulation and love. There is a love subplot here but this not a love story or even a romance. Instead it is a story of finding oneself and it is an emotional story. Vin narrates and while I did not find him a likeable character at first but he grew on me and I believe that is because he made Mai happy. After all, Mai is the first character we meet and because he is lonely, we identify with him. He has that farm boy innocence and he is both admirable and vulnerable. Vin, on the other hand, is worldly and complicated and when I was made aware of the pain that he has suffered, my opinion of him changed. While the book is named for Mai, this is really Vin’s story, the mystery of someone who was lost as a child and who makes his way by using people. The relationship between Vin and Mai is short but deep and while there is a happy ending, it is not a traditional one just as their romance was not traditional. Vin really tries to change Mai’s life for the better.
This is a difficult book to review because to summarize the plot does not really tell us what the book is about. Vin focuses on Mai who is a total outsider where he lives. We get to know Mai slowly and the more we know about him the more we love him. He is stubbornly analytic and he both charms and frustrates us.
There is also another major character in the film and that is the setting and through the use of metaphors, we get to know it. You will undoubtedly notice that I have avoided any mention of the word “king” that is so prominent in the title and that is because I did not understand how it was used and there are enough other interesting aspects to look at. For me, it was interesting to look at the magic that Vin and Mai shared. They are not always of one mind but they love each other in their own ways. Not everyone finds his way early on and we constantly try to find where we are going and know who we are. There is allegory in the journey that Vin and Mai take which ultimately ends in rebirth.
Let me say a few words about the quality of the prose. Edmond Manning writes beautifully. He has the ability to create a painting in words. In fact, each word seems especially chosen to fit in a sentence. Sometimes, like Mai, we need to work at becoming who we are. Only then, as we see here, can we truly be at peace.