EW Staff
May 09, 2008 AT 04:00 AM EDT

The characters in Nam Le’s The Boat are impossible to pigeonhole, ranging from an egomaniacal Manhattan artist to a Colombian gangster to a hard-drinking Iowa M.F.A. student.

Standout Story
The brutal title story dramatizes the plight of three Vietnamese boat people.

Bottom Line
Le’s viscerally affecting writing and bold imagination mark an exciting, if uneven, debut. B+

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