With Complicit, critically acclaimed author Winnie M. Li once again taps into her own past to tell a story that will resonate with readers everywhere. Unlike many of the #metoo-inspired novels flooding the market in recent years, Winnie M. Li dares to pull back that curtain to show in many ways how we are all complicit – both knowingly and unwittingly – in allowing such reprehensible behavior to be perpetuated at the fringes of society.
Complicit is many novels rolled into one:
It is an immigrant story. Sarah Lai’s strongest desire is to make her Chinese parents proud, but she longs to do it on her own terms, in her own way. Despite siblings that are following the most common paths of secure careers and traditional families, Sarah has a passion for cinema – most specifically script-doctoring – and will not allow the reality that there are few Asian-Americans being represented behind-the-scenes of filmdom to be a deterrent. What she doesn’t expect is that her moral compass will be tested time and again while simply striving to reach her career goals.
It is an industry story. Winnie M. Li knows Hollywood and her glimpse behind the scenes of the film-making process is utterly compelling with verisimilitude that can not be denied. From the early stages of financing a new movie project straight through to the final day of filming, Li takes readers on the production journey, allowing them to see how the magic is made. However, seeing the bright side of this process also reminds the reader that there must be a dark side – and Winnie M. Li is never shy about shining a light into those shadowy corners.
It is a #metoo story. The drugs and partying are just the beginning. As Winnie M. Li traces Sarah’s trajectory in the industry, the tarnish under the surface begins to be revealed. Slowly at first, Sarah begins to see how money and power (and the power of money) create an unfair playing field in the industry, but it is only after a truly traumatic experience that Sarah will have to make difficult decisions, ones that may mean her life will never be the same.
It is a story that examines the power of investigative journalism. Told in dual timelines, the present-day portion of Complicit features Sarah Lai being interviewed by Thom Gallagher, a cutting-edge journalist hot on the trail of a story that could rock the Hollywood studios like an earthquake hitting the I-5. Readers are given glimpses of Thom’s other interviews, exposing the depth and breadth of this exposé. The main plot follows Sarah Lai’s chronological telling of her experiences as a fledgling employee at a small production company to being the producer on one of the biggest movies of the year and further on to her career teaching screenwriting at a small community college.
Lastly, and most importantly, Complicit is a story of guilt. Winnie M. Li pulls no punches in exposing how small decisions and innocent choices can make us complicit in things that would normally turn our stomach. While Sarah Lai is the central character here, the story itself illuminates the failings of so many characters and even causes the reader to question how their own love of movies and the cinematic experience feeds the monster just under the surface.
Despite the tough topic, Complicit is written in a style that makes for an ease of reading. Using the traditional three act structure (another nod to her understanding of the Hollywood machine), Winnie M. Li spends the First Act setting up the story for the reader, then in Act Two she highlights the conflict and the path towards confrontation, before finally – in Act Three – bringing forth the climax and eventual resolution (if such a thing can exist in a case like this.) The brief respites between Sarah’s interview where readers are given a glimpse of her family life help to explore the immigrant experience more fully and will delight many readers who are interested in learning about other cultures.
Complicit is a book that readers will never forget, from an author who is just getting started. Winnie M. Li is sure to continue to produce thought-proving novels that entertain and educate in equal measure. And that is a win for all readers.
BUY LINKS: Complicit by Winnie M. Li
Disclaimer: An e-galley of this title was provided to BOLO Books by the publisher. No promotion was promised and the above is an unbiased review of the novel.