Publisher: Algonquin Books
“An epic account of Việt Nam’s painful 20th century history, both vast in scope and intimate in its telling . . . Moving and riveting.” —VIET THANH NGUYEN, author of The Sympathizer, winner of the Pulitzer Prize
With the epic sweep of Min Jin Lee’s Pachinko or Yaa Gyasi’s Homegoing and the lyrical beauty of Vaddey Ratner’s In the Shadow of the Banyan, The Mountains Sing tells an enveloping, multigenerational tale of the Trần family, set against the backdrop of the Việt Nam War. Trần Diệu Lan, who was born in 1920, was forced to flee her family farm with her six children during the Land Reform as the Communist government rose in the North. Years later in Hà Nội, her young granddaughter, Hương, comes of age as her parents and uncles head off down the Hồ Chí Minh Trail to fight in a conflict that tore not just her beloved country, but her family apart.
Vivid, gripping, and steeped in the language and traditions of Việt Nam, The Mountains Sing brings to life the human costs of this conflict from the point of view of the Vietnamese people themselves, while showing us the true power of kindness and hope.
The Mountains Sing is celebrated Vietnamese poet Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai’s first novel in English.
What a captivating novel! Within the first several pages I was transported to another time and place. This intergenerational novel tells the story from within Vietnam – one that many are unfamiliar with if you learned your country’s historical perspective of that time period.
The writing was lyrical and Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai did a phenomenal job of creating an atmosphere for the reader to experience not only the beauty of the country and people but also the horrors suffered.
I loved learning about the culture, traditions, and proverbs that prevailed despite the turmoil and hardships faced. It was all so real and as I read, there were times I had to put the book down to process the author’s words. This book is an experience – far more than just words on a page.
I felt a strong emotional connection with the characters and I have yet to stop thinking about this book. It’s one that I can recommend to anyone and I believe that this is one of those books that everyone should read. There are so many lessons to be learned, historical perspectives to be told, and experiences to be shared.
This book has already made it into my top books of 2020 and I cannot wait to read what this author writes next! She is immensely talented.
About the author:
Born into the Viet Nam War in 1973, Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai grew up witnessing the war’s devastation and its aftermath. She worked as a street vendor and rice farmer before winning a scholarship to attend university in Australia. She is the author of eight books of poetry, fiction and non-fiction published in Vietnamese, and her writing has been translated and published in more than 10 countries, most recently in Norton’s Inheriting the War anthology. She has been honored with many awards, including the Poetry of the Year 2010 Award from the Hà Nội Writers Association, as well as international grants and fellowships. Quế Mai first learned English in 8th grade and The Mountains Sing is the first novel written in English by a Vietnamese national to be published by a major American publisher. Currently based in Indonesia, Quế Mai’s journalism regularly appears in major Vietnamese newspapers. For more information, visit www.nguyenphanquemai.com.
Thank you to Algonquin Books for a gifted copy of this book in exchange for my unbiased review and promotion.