Wednesday, September 20, 2017

SUE'S REVIEWS!



The Refugees

by Viet Thanh Nguyen

I noticed on the book's cover that author Viet Thanh Nguyen was the recipient of a 2016 Pulitzer Prize for his novel, The Sympathizer. I hesitated, thinking maybe I ought to start with that one, but the book in my hands, The Refugees, promised short stories written over the past twenty years, and I wanted to see how the author's style might have changed over time. 

For Readers: 
Once I began to read, it quickly became apparent that Nguyen has a firm grip on his craft. It's easy to become immersed in his stories, and easy to get pulled into the whole Vietnam thing; to my own memories of the war and its aftermath—boat people and places of refuge like Hawaii's Little Saigon. 

It turns out my perceptions were lacking, however. There actually isn't a place where a person who has lost his homeland can ever again feel part of the mainstream. It's a fact driven home in the eight touching stories that portray the lives of the refugees who fled Vietnam.

The stories are rich with vivid and complicated characters and situations that will break your heart with complexity and inevitability. Perhaps my favorite story is, “I'd Love You to Want Me,” about an old Vietnamese couple living in America. The husband has developed dementia to the point that he began to confuse his wife’s name with that of a lover he knew pre-war. He's not the sort of man to torment his wife, so it's only possible for her to lay blame on the circumstances that brought them together. Her devotion to her husband is unfaltering, even as her heart is breaking and even as she struggles to physically handle the work involved in being his caretaker.

The Refugees is a fine study on the aftermath of war, a book I'd recommend to anyone.
Reviewed by Sue Ellis.

Published by Grove Atlantic
ISBN 978-0--8021-2639-9
eISBN978-0-8021-8935-6
Buy it here: The Refugees, Amazon

For Writers:
The author was born in Vietnam and raised in America, and he obviously writes what he knows. His prose is so intelligently done, so perceptive and unobtrusively insistent that we get his viewpoint. That's where his strength lies, I think, in his humanity and capability to portray real people under duress.





11 comments:

  1. Sounds very good. I haven't read a collection of short stories in a long time.

    Love,
    Janie

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    1. I don't read them as often as novels, but I always enjoy getting back to them.

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  2. It sounds well written and heartbreaking.

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    1. I know, and that means a good read.

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    2. I already bought it, couldn't resist. :-)

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  3. This is a great review, Deb. I appreciate you writing two sections, for readers and writers. I was especially moved by the conclusion that those leaving their homeland under such circumstances never truly feel part of the mainstream again. Thank you. Will make a note of the book.

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    1. Thanks, but actually it's Sue Ellis who writes these reviews. I merely post them. But I have bought a couple of the books she reviewed, and I haven't been disappointed.
      Thanks for stopping by.

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  4. Sounds like a really good book. Thanks for the review!

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    1. Reviewed this one. I'm not done reading it, but I am enjoying it so far.

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  5. Thanks for your review. It sounds like an interesting book as the author wrote what he knew.

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    1. Yes, sometimes that works. But for those of us who don't have an interesting life (blush), we might have to go outside of that box. :-)

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