Five-Star Stranger: A Novel (Hardcover)

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Five-Star Stranger: A  Novel By Kat Tang Cover Image

Five-Star Stranger: A Novel (Hardcover)


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In Kat Tang’s exciting and resonant debut, a “Rental Stranger”—a companion hired under various guises—walks the line between personal and professional in surprising new ways.

Would you hire someone to be the best man at your wedding? Your stand-in brother? Your husband?

In an age where online ratings are all-powerful, Five-Star Stranger follows the adventures of a top-rated man on the Rental Stranger app—a place where users can hire a pretend fiancé, a wingman, or an extra mourner for a funeral. Referred to only as Stranger, the narrator navigates New York City under the guise of characters he plays, always maintaining a professional distance from his clients.

But, when a nosy patron threatens to upend his long-term role as father to a young girl, Stranger begins to reckon with his attachment to his pretend daughter, her mother, and his own fraught past. Now, he must confront the boundaries he has drawn and explore the legacy of abandonment that shaped his life.

Five-Star Stranger is a strikingly vivid novel about the commodification of relationships in a gig economy, isolation in a hyperconnected world, and the risk of asking for what we want from those who cannot give. This is the story of a man who finds out who he is by being anyone but himself.
Kat Tang is a graduate of Columbia’s MFA program where she taught as an Undergraduate Writing Fellow. Born in China, relocated to Japan, and raised in California, she is fascinated by how we make and fake human connection in a technologically evolving world. Her short stories and graphic narratives have appeared in Electric Literature, The Margins, Pigeon Pages, and elsewhere. She currently lives in St. Louis, Missouri.

Product Details ISBN: 9781668050149
ISBN-10: 1668050145
Publisher: Scribner
Publication Date: August 6th, 2024
Pages: 240
Language: English
"Five-Star Stranger is a five-star read. Kat Tang writes with care and clarity, perception and perfect comedic timing about what it means to love and be loved in our absurdist era of technology-induced isolation. I closed the book with an audible 'ahh' of satisfaction — not only entertained, but enchanted, and moved." —Rachel Khong, author of Goodbye, Vitamin 

"A hilarious and touching meditation on our atomized age. It's rare for a book so profound to give so much pleasure, page by page." —Gary Shteyngart, author of Our Country Friends

"A sly, sophisticated, and compulsively readable debut about a person who is paid to be invisible, to be anyone to everyone, and yet inadvertently finds himself.  Five-Star Stranger is a satirical comedy that grapples with the modern-day anxieties of the online persona and gig economy, masterfully blended with a poignant, heartwarming story about human connection." —Weike Wang, author of Chemistry 

"Five-Star Stranger carries its comic premise to surprising and intriguing places. This is a wise, funny and affecting novel, and a memorable debut." —Sam Lipsyte, author of The Ask 

"Five-Star Stranger is smart and slick, a lampoon of the late-stage capitalist tech-ification of modern society, at turns realist and speculative, intimate and engrossing. A novel about a for-hire stranger who cycles through a carousel of identities for paying clients with myriad intentions, it asks an important question: who are you—truly, deeply inside—and if nobody cares to know it, does it even matter?" —Jinwoo Chong, author of Flux 

"In a grindingly deterministic world where everyone’s faking it, Kat Tang has seen through the lies. She’s asking the hard, important questions. Is there anything left to bind us to each other? Is it possible to transcend our useful but dehumanizing illusions? Her answers are clear eyed and profoundly humane. Five-Star Stranger is the moral tale we need in these troubled times. It’s perfectly calibrated to blow your mind." —Joshua Furst, author of Revolutionaries 

"A fresh and moving portrait of loneliness in a society where a swipe of a finger can buy you a friend, a best man, and even a father. How long can we purchase companionship before our sense of self shatters? Kat Tang adeptly and acutely explores how these perfect, five-star transactions can deepen the gaps in our lives, until we are unrecognizable to ourselves. A disassembling, propulsive, and absorbing read." —Crystal Hana Kim, author of The Stone Home  

"Five-Star Stranger is a genuine original. As her protagonist shifts shapes and charms clients, you'll fall for each and every performance he gives.  Father one moment, friend the next, and ex-boyfriend after that, he plays each role with aplomb, and Tang draws us in on the hunt to discover what truly lies at the heart of the best unknown supporting actor in New York City. Fast-paced, beautiful, and dazzlingly funny, this novel is a brilliant achievement." —Kristopher Jansma, author of Our Narrow Hiding Places