Book Review: The Mountains Sing, by Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai

Book Review: The Mountains Sing, by Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai

By Julia Ratledge, Roswell Library

Award-winning poet Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai has written a sweeping multi-generational tale of Vietnam. The Mountains Sing wraps the reader in a cloak of devotion, tragedy and, ultimately, hope. Told by matriarch Grandma, Diệu Lan, and her granddaughter, Hương (Guava), the author deftly mirrors the characters’ struggles with the struggles of Vietnam. In Quế Mai’s hands, one family’s history becomes a seamless and prosaic narrative welcoming readers, especially westerners, into the heart of Vietnamese culture.

Spanning the years of French Colonialism and the Great Famine to the Land Reform and the Vietnam War, this novel eloquently describes the horrors of war (physical and psychological) and its after effects, while focusing on survival and how one can survive even the most brutal of events to emerge stronger, more compassionate and more brave.  

Heroine Grandma is both a sympathetic figure and a determined businesswoman who will stop at nothing to protect her family. Her strength grows throughout the story and while she faces inevitable heartbreak and challenges, she emerges stronger than ever. This is true for most of the characters, as well. Quế Mai’s poetic language is lyrical and evocative, creating a captivating family saga that is a page turner until the very end.  This title is available in eBook and eAudiobook format on Hoopla.

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