Wayson Choy’s second memoir, Not Yet, is bookended by two brushes with the undiscovered country via ticker trouble. The first, an asthma attack and a handful of “cardiac events,” leave him in an induced coma. The second attack is recognized by doctors quickly enough to be reduced to an epilogue and concludes with a writer shaken, but in command of his life and talents.
Despite the morbid theme, Choy’s tone is as consistently and uniquely charming as anything in his body of work, including Trillium Award-winner The Jade Peony. Choy walks his reader through the ravages of illness, incapacity, and subsequent recovery like a personal museum filled with curious knick-knacks.
The writing is certainly indulgent; Choy basks in his own pettiness with candor and self-satisfaction, and even manages to evoke September 11th as a motivation during his physiotherapy. It’s enough to make you cringe—but the flip side of this navel-gazing is Choy’s accounting of the moments of joy he encounters on the journey back to health: friendship, poetry, even the small victory of relearning how to open a plastic pudding container. It’s the descriptions of his friends that provide the book’s best passages and his ammunition against the nagging and presumably lifelong disapproval he suffers under his ancestors’ imagined judgment. Through Choy’s eyes we see love that offers dignity to even the most hopeless of situations, and the value of family in all its incarnations.