King of the Armadillos
Author: Wendy Chin-Tanner
BEST BOOK OF SUMMER 2023: The Boston Globe, Deep South Magazine, Ms. Magazine, BookRiot
"Brilliant, absorbing, and powerfully moving." —Cheryl Strayed, New York Times bestselling author of Wild
“[A] gripping and tenderly executed drama." —The New York Times
A novel about family, love, and belonging, set against the backdrops of 1950s New York City and Louisiana, following one young man’s quest to survive an often misunderstood disease, and find love, music, and himself, in the process.
Victor Chin’s life is turned upside down at the tender age of 15. Diagnosed with Hansen’s disease, otherwise known as leprosy, he’s forced to leave the familiar confines of his father’s laundry business in the Bronx – the only home he’s known since emigrating from China with his older brother – to quarantine alongside patients from all over the country at a federal institution in Carville.
At first, Victor is scared not only of the disease, but of the confinement, and wants nothing more than to flee. Between treatments he dreams of escape and imagines his life as a fugitive. But soon he finds a new sense of freedom far from home – one without the pull of obligations to his family, the laundry business, or his mother back in China. Here, in the company of an unforgettable cast of characters, Victor finds refuge in music and experiences first love, jealousy, betrayal, and even tragedy. But with the promise of a life-changing cure on the horizon, Victor’s time at Carville is running out, and he has some difficult choices to make.
A page turning work of historical fiction, King of the Armadillos announces Wendy Chin-Tanner as an extraordinary new voice. Inspired by her father’s experience as a young patient at Carville, this tender novel is a captivating and lyrical exploration of the power of art.