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John Lee is a lonely and increasingly misanthropic Chinese migrant who has lived in Auckland for thirty years, running a second-hand junk shop while maintaining a relationship of disdain with his disabled wife. When he becomes infatuated with a young international student who lodges in their house, and puts his life savings behind a scheme to export powdered milk to China, the dubious balance with which he has held his life together comes apart, and feelings of alienation and humiliation begin to spiral out of control.
Dry Milk is a work of fiction that gives a perspective on Antipodean culture unlike any other, told from the point of view of an immigrant alienated from his new home, both its New Zealand and Chinese communities. Huo’s novella is a stark portrait of social isolation, and of the experience of the emigrants that left China in the period after the Cultural Revolution. Capturing the voice of China’s post-1980s literary generation, the book is written with an obsessive intensity that echoes Patricia Highsmith, Elias Canetti and the short novels of Elena Ferrante.