This acclaimed novel reveals the life of a Vietnamese family in America through the knowing eyes of a child finding her place and voice in a new country.
In 1978 six refugees—a girl, her father, and four “uncles”—are pulled from the sea to begin a new life in San Diego. In the child’s imagination, the world is transmuted into an unearthly realm: she sees everything intensely, hears the distress calls of inanimate objects, and waits for her mother to join her. But life loses none of its strangeness when the family is reunited. As the girl grows, her matter-of-fact innocence eddies increasingly around opaque and ghostly traumas: the cataclysm that engulfed her homeland, the memory of a brother who drowned and, most inescapable, her father’s hopeless rage.
“A brilliant evocation of human sorrow and desire. . . . Heartbreaking and exhilarating. . . . As vivid as a fairy tale, as allusive as a poem.”
The New York Times Book Review
“Breathtaking. . . . Flows in luminous paragraphs that mingle past and present, creating a fluid sense of time.” —Vogue
“Slender and elegant. . . . A beautifully rendered description of the personal, psychological and historical threads that link father to daughter.” —Los Angeles Times Book Review
"lê captures the magical thinking of childhood with its shifting awareness of the wonders and apprehensions of life." —Village Voice Literary Supplement