But as Lindon negotiates with the old man’s family, he finds sense where there is none. And love where there is war.
I was driving to work tonight, at about six at night. Since it is the middle of November, the sky was pitch black but the stars were still sleeping. My work is almost an hour away, on a straight drive down the same 70 mph highway every day, passing the same gas stations, the same pastures, the same corn and bean fields, the same junkyard, the same four McDonald’s, and the same beat down old restaurant that had not been a restaurant in over ten years. Besides some broken down and boarded up windows and a speed trap some time mornings. Tonight there were four pickup trucks, lined up, running with parking lights on, and I could not help but think that this was some sort of construction worker conspiracy, trying to get a land holdout to give up their property so that this can be redeveloped.
This reflects part of the plot of “The Nail House”, by Gregory Baines. The main character, Lindon, is brought into China by a corporation and his only job is to get rid of the tenants of a nail house that is holding up the progress of the corporation’s developments. Lindon sees quickly that he is in over his head, but he really does not have much other option but to be successful. The owner of the nail house, the house that he needs to convince the owner to sell, is fighting for his pride more than anything. His daughter, Zhen, wants nothing more than to be done with the entire situation but her thoughts are more geared toward running away with her fiancee, Sun, than to find a solution. When she meets, Lindon, the plot becomes more convoluted with emotions and empathy instead of just fighting. This novella is interesting and light, with a well constructed plot and good characters.
While I was looking for images of the cover of this book, I found pictures of actual nail houses in China, actual people who are doing the things that make this plot more tied to real issues than just an idea that does not exist. Some of the pictures of the nail houses are crazy in their isolation, where the construction company has ripped out everything around the house and there is no way for the occupants to do anything other than survive. The thing that I could have used more in this book is the feeling of displacement by Lindon, spending a little more time focusing on his struggling to understand Chinese culture and making mistakes due to his lack of stability in this situation. Even though this was sort of thin, the entirety of the book was enjoyable. Weeks after reading it, I still see conspiracy and terror in a line of trucks parked in the middle of the night at an old abandoned restaurant. They were probably doing something like selling drugs to one another, but I like to think it was because they were getting ready to go sabotage a work site or a corporate obstruction.