"Shan Won seems to only exist deep
within the dark rumour-crazed underbelly of the internet. ....
But the common thread throughout all this writing is
glaringly obvious: people stumble upon Shan Won, espouse its
perfection, and never, ever—ever—return. "
A sparsely written letter received by a friend, a determined google search, a lot of individual soul searching, and Richard finds himself on the path to Shan Won. Shan Won is a refuge of perfection that welcomes everyone, and renders its visitors virtually incapable of leaving; not because they can't, but because, well, why would they ever want to? Who could leave a place where hunger, sickness and societal discord are things of the past? The question is not one of wondering *if* you will go or what to do there, the questions is simply "how will I get there?"
I was hooked from the very first page. There was just something about the story and the direction it took that made me eager to continue. I wouldn't be satisfied until I had read every page. Although not at all what I anticipated, the ending was satisfying in its own way. My questions were answered, but not in the manner I was expecting. Instead, my questions were answered in a way that forced me to think about my own life choices.
We can all read deeply into this idea of a "Shangri-La" called Shan Won. At times, it almost seems like a heavenly afterlife, and at other times, it seems the perfect utopian society on Earth. The choices Richard had to make along the way were reminiscent of choices we all make in life, both big and small. Our individual choices may affect someone else, and, collectively, the choices of a large group can be devastating to a society dependent upon its members. This story makes you think about your own personal haven, and who is ultimately responsible for creating happiness. Does it come from circumstances outside yourself, or are you responsible for creating your own happiness?
Although the book is pretty well-edited, there are a few missed errors here and there, and some "interesting" comma placement. Many of the strangely-placed commas were in the conversational speech of the characters, and I began to suspect they may be purposeful- meant to show "halting" or uncertain speech patterns. Although that isn't a terrible use of a comma per se, there were so many of these extra commas that it appeared an accidental result instead of a purposeful writing choice. Otherwise, the writing is simple but clear, and the overall story is concise but engaging.
The Lowdown: I would recommend this book. It's one of those books that stays with you even after you've clicked past your last page. I finished the book Thursday night, and I'm still thinking about it on Saturday. What would my Shan Won look like? Would it be worth leaving everything in my current life? Which character's actions most closely resemble the actions I would likely take? Most importantly, what choices do I need to make to put myself on the path to my own personal Shan Won?
4.5 /5 stars