Book Title: The Mountains Sing
Author: Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai
Published by: Oneworld Publications
Published on: March 17th, 2020
Genre: Historical Fiction
**I purchased this book with my own money.There was no obligation to post/give this book a certain rating.
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 Tran family, set against the backdrop of the Viet Nam War. Tran Dieu 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 Noi, her young granddaughter, Hương, comes of age as her parents and uncles head off down the Ho Chí Minh Trail to fight in a conflict that will tear not just her beloved country but her family apart.
Vivid, gripping, and steeped in the language and traditions of Viet 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. This is celebrated Vietnamese poet Nguyen Phan Que Mai’s first novel in English.
Historical fiction is not my jam. There, I said it. But then, given the circumstances, I wanted to pick up a solemn read. And I wasn’t disappointed.
🔥🔥🔥“I realized that war was monstrous. If it didn’t kill those it touched, it took away a piece of their souls, so they could never be whole again.”
The Mountains Sing is a poignant exploration of the Tran family’s journey during the Vietnam War, focusing on Tran Dieu Lan and her six children. As most of them become soldiers, the book provides a gripping account of the human side of the war, delving into the heartbreaking and uplifting aspects of their experiences. It shows the effects of war – hunger, homes lost, death of near and dear ones, loss of property, changes in society, reforms, and conflict.
This book is a solemn yet compelling read that beautifully captures the vivid details of war and trauma. It doesn’t shy away from addressing the harsh realities of conflict, including the devastating impact of Agent Orange. The story touches on politics and reckless decisions but, amidst the darkness, it also illuminates the resilience of the human spirit. The novel is a testament to the power of hope and the will to survive in the face of adversity.
What I loved the most was how the story unfolds through the dual perspectives of Tran Dieu Lan, the resilient grandmother, and her granddaughter Hương, providing a rich and layered narrative that spans generations. The alternating viewpoints offer a profound exploration of the impact of the Vietnam War on both women, creating a deeply moving and immersive reading experience.
🔥🔥🔥“Try to forgive and forget, Ngọc,” said Grandma. “If you bear grudges, you’re the one who’ll have to bear the burden of sorrow.”
Tran Dieu Lan’s perspective, rooted in her experiences during the Land Reform and the subsequent challenges she faced, paints a vivid picture of resilience and sacrifice. Her journey is marked by heart-wrenching decisions and the harsh realities of war. Nguyen Phan Que Mai skillfully brings out the strength and wisdom of Tran Dieu Lan, making her a compelling and memorable character.
On the other hand, Hương’s coming-of-age story in the midst of the conflict adds another dimension to the narrative. Her youthful perspective provides insight into the generational consequences of war, as she grapples with the absence of her parents and uncles who have gone to fight. Hương’s voice brings a sense of hope and determination, even in the face of adversity.
The interplay between these two perspectives creates a powerful resonance throughout the novel. It allows readers to witness the echoes of history and the enduring spirit of the Tran family. The author skillfully weaves together the threads of the past and present, showing the impact of war on different generations while highlighting the shared strength that binds these women together.
In essence, The Mountains Sing beautifully captures the complexity of the human experience through the dual lenses of grandmother and granddaughter. The emotional depth of their stories, intertwined with Vietnamese culture and proverbs, makes this well-researched own voices novel a compelling and heartfelt exploration of love, loss, and the indomitable human spirit.
🔥🔥🔥“The war might destroy our houses, but it can’t extinguish our spirit”
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In a gist, here’s what you can expect from this book.
💫Resilience 💫Hope 💫Family
I highly recommend it for its emotional depth and the powerful portrayal of the human experience in challenging times.
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This book is read as part of the #ReadingWithMuffy prompt: A book with animal/bird on the cover, hosted by yours truly. Want to know more about the reading challenge? Get the deets here.
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