Aimee Liu’s Glorious Boy gives readers a portrait of a young mother and fledgling anthropologist caught in a remote outpost in the midst of World War Two. Two of Liu’s three previous novels (Flash House, Cloud Mountain, and Face) were set in Asia, and all deal with themes of race, colonialism, and women strengthening their identities.
Glorious Boy takes readers to the remote Andaman Islands, a territory of India in the Bay of Bengal, where in 1936, twenty-one-year-old Claire embarks on an anthropology career with the encouragement of her husband Shep, a British civil surgeon. Fascinated by the Biya, a fictional Andaman tribe based on the Aka-Bea people, Claire finds her work interrupted by motherhood, and her son Ty— mysteriously mute and highly willful—inscrutable. She is only able to continue researching her beloved tribe with the help of servants, including thirteen-year-old Naila, orphaned by a tsunami, whose especially close connection with Ty makes her the only caretaker who can translate his needs. When the Japanese invade the Andamans in 1942, Naila disappears into the forest with four-year-old Ty as Claire hastily packs to leave. Shep dispatches a frantic Claire on a ship and tries to search for the boy himself.
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