If I had known the tone of the book before I got my hands on it, I might not have made an effort. I remember seeing glowing tributes to the writing, and when I began reading it, I had to pause to confirm if this was a work of fiction. The raw emotion in every page, kept me on that scene even after I moved on to the next page. Usually, I shy away from such narrative only because it leaves me feeling unsettled and not in a positive manner. This is a very personal choice, and I had a very visceral reaction to the story. Although it is not a big book and the writing was brilliant for the most part, I had to read it bits and pieces to actually get through it all just because of the power of the content.
The story is of a Vietnamese refugee in a country that had its own take on the crisis in their home country. It is also the story of the women who fed him and nurtured him while at the same time leave their own scars due to either ignorance, habit or illness. It is written as a letter to the mother who cannot read it, and even if she could, she cannot understand or process the information. The timeline ebbs and flows and sometimes doubles back over a story already mentioned. There are little tributary stories hidden within, which highlight darker times and places involving a lot of socio-economic issues. This story can be dissected into numerous ‘topics’, and the author/narrator does have a hand in suggesting such a mode of reading it because he also tends to do just that. It is not a happy story, but it is starkly real as well as graphic.
I would only recommend this to the brave of heart or people who have read books dealing with the darker shades of the daily lives of people.
I received an ARC thanks to NetGalley and the publishers, but as is obvious, the review is entirely based on my own reading experience.