Vincent Chu’s debut story collection is funny and big-hearted, imbued with a generosity and warmth that reminds us that moments of glory can happen when we least expect it. In eighteen stories that shine a light on people far from champions, Like a Champion is an ode to underdogs and long shots, disappointed worker bees and hopeful lovers, sad office parties and one-sided basketball games. A lonely businessman on a cruise finds comfort in an unlikely companion. Two high school friends try to survive their last backyard wrestling match only to learn that not all endings can be choreographed. An expat teacher struggles with her new life overseas until a familiar stranger joins the faculty. A young woman fails to make progress in a strip mall boxing gym before discovering strength in her breaking point.
“In Like a Champion, Vincent Chu decidedly hands us a triumphant collection of surprising, energetic stories and good, weird, sometimes sad people. It is an intimate book that made me laugh out loud more than once. We are safe in Chu’s hands as he tackles the anxious thoughts of people who want to be loved and included, of characters all-too-painfully human, and he knows exactly when to close the door on these stories. I read this book thinking, oh bless their hearts, bless all of our hearts.”
Leesa Cross-Smith, author of Whiskey & Ribbons
“Vincent Chu can do many things, tell a story, create indelible characters, and craft spot-on dialogue, but what he does most movingly in Like a Champion is unpack our greatest fears, hopes and desires, in other words, what makes us human.”
Ben Tanzer, author of Be Cool
“In sharp and engrossing prose, Chu takes us into the hearts of characters whose misguided optimism seems destined for a cruel reckoning. The brilliance of this collection is not only these complex portrayals but the surprising twists that make us nod in recognition at what makes us hopeful and human. A fun and deeply moving read!”
Jimin Han, author of A Small Revolution
“These stories surprise and delight. Vincent Chu sees into the longings, quirks, and humanity of his characters, revealing the small moments that touch their lives with gravity and, often, grace.”
Lindsey Crittenden, author of The Water Will Hold You
“A thought-provoking collection of stories which pulls the reader on a journey with the characters, a journey of surviving, loving, breaking, hurting, healing, self-doubt. The characters in each story reminded me of either myself or someone I know. Cannot wait for more from Vincent Chu. At the end of Like a Champion, I felt as if each story could be a full-fledged novel on its own.”
Shamala Palaniappan, author of Elephant’s Breath
“Chu finds ways to turn the everyday into the revelatory... He covers a host of relationships—familial, romantic, occupational—and, in doing so, showcases the complexities of the characters on display. Chu’s stories are solidly realistic in their scope, exploring everyday issues with charm and empathy—and occasional moments of unexpected humor.”
“Vincent Chu takes us on a journey through real life, with brief glimpses into the lives of diverse characters. While each character and story is different, there is something relatable about them all. You'll find yourself among friends in these stories."
San Francisco Book Review
“Like a Champion is a lighthearted testimony to life's unexpected turns. Through the eyes of eighteen characters, Vincent Chu establishes how painful and hilarious being human can be. Chu creates a context where the lonely feel loved, connections thrive through conflicts, and private issues unfold in public spaces. Above all, each story retains a sense of hope or new beginning."
“With gentle precision, Chu moves beyond the writerly adage of show don't tell; he doesn't want the reader to be shown or told anything, rather asking the reader to experience the feeling of being sucked into another person's head. The true strength of Chu's stories is he doesn't ask the reader to simply watch as he launches fire works into the air, he'd much rather we focus on the feelings we experience every time there's a tiny burst of fire in the night sky... He clearly has a great deal of affection for his characters, and by the end of the book, we're not just cheering for his characters, but for Chu himself."
East Bay Review
“These quietly hopeful stories are a breath of fresh air... None of the stories outstays its welcome; they're short and sweet. In another author's hands, this collection easily could have turned dark. Each of the characters feels desperate, or lonely, or loser-ish in some way. Chu does a great job of capturing the palpable, excruciating sense of social awkwardness - that sense that everyone's having a party and you're not invited (in two of the stories, literally). But he keeps everything light and comic, even at times when things do get dark."
“These stories, people and settings are rooted in reality. There is not one character who does something out of character. Nor is there a setting too unrealistic to visualize. All these factors come together to produce a collection that is a joy to read."
A Nook and a Book
“Vincent Chu's 'Rhubarb Pie' remains one of the funniest and most relatable stories we've published at Bookends Review. Fortunately, it's alongside many wonderful pieces be it the arresting 'Boom Town' or poignant 'Like a Norwegian' or charmingly blunt 'Star of the World,' each piece offers readers a refined glimpse into characters and situations that are easily accessible while highly resonant and memorable."
“Like a Champion celebrates the underdogs and second bests — and finds the light when all we might see is the darkness.”
“The real beauty of Chu’s work isn’t heart-thumping action or over-the-top drama, but that it’s rooted in reality. At some point, in at least one of the stories, the reader is going to say, ‘That’s me.’ Writing something that captures so many different people isn’t easy to do, but Chu has achieved it.”
“Chu does this magical thing of finding the heart of the story, cutting it out and placing it on the table in front of you. He points a mirror at you and shows you what your life might be like if you did one thing differently.”
“With Like a Champion, Chu creates characters so realistic they could be you. I cried with them, laughed many times, cheered them on, or enjoyed their conversations. Chu mixes their everyday struggle with what makes them who they are so specifically, that they could be walking past you as you sit out on the patio of your favorite burger joint. Like A Champion fits well in the satire genre, yet also goes beyond this wit to show complexity, and the struggle of characters who are all too human.”
Heavy Feather Review
“One of the strongest collections of stories I've read in years.”
The Irresponsible Reader
“A beautiful, funny collection of stories.”
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