Things we lost to the water A novel

Eric Nguyen, 1988-

Book - 2021

"When Huong arrives in New Orleans with her two young sons, she is jobless, homeless, and worried about her husband, Cong, who remains in Vietnam. As she and her boys begin to settle into life in America, she continues to send letters and tapes back to Cong, hopeful that they will be reunited and her children will grow up with a father. Over time, Huong realizes she will never see Cong again. While she copes with this loss, her sons, Tuan and Binh, grow up in their absent father's shad...ow, haunted by a man and a country trapped in their memory and imagination. As they push forward, the three adapt to life in America in different ways: Huong takes up with a Vietnamese car salesman who is also new in town; Tuan tries to connect with his heritage by joining a local Vietnamese gang; and Binh, now going by Ben, embraces his burgeoning sexuality. Their search for identity--as individuals and as a family--tears them apart, until disaster strikes and they must find a new way to come together and honor the ties that bind them"--

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Subjects
Genres
Novels
Published
New York : Alfred A. Knopf 2021.
Edition
First edition
Language
English
Item Description
"This is a Borzoi Book"
Physical Description
289 pages ; 22 cm
ISBN
9780593317952
0593317955
9780593311035
0593311035
Main Author
Eric Nguyen, 1988- (author)
Review by Booklist Reviews

*Starred Review* While the story arc might sound familiar—other-side-of-the-world refugees who endure challenging lives in the U.S.—Nguyen's gentle precision nevertheless produces an extraordinary debut with undeniable resonance. As the MFA-ed, prestigiously fellowshipped (Lambda, Tin House) editor in chief of diaCRITICS, Nguyen ciphers all that literary practice and training into creating a Vietnamese family, three-quarters of which arrive in New Orleans in 1978. Once upon a time, Huong was a village wife to teacher Công, mother to young Tu?n. Suddenly, all three are running for their lives, but only Huong and Tu?n board the boat, embarking on a path of everlasting separation. Huong carries within the unborn Binh, who later baptizes himself as Ben. Settling into a New Orleans East apartment, Huong continues to record cassette tapes for Công even after he inexplicably severs their familial bonds. Years pass before Huong finds supportive companionship with fellow refugee Vinh, and yet his constant presence remains a weighty reminder of Công's absence. Tu?n finds tenuous connections with a dangerous girl and a vicious gang; Ben seeks solace alone in a life of books, then on a journey abroad. Nearly three decades later, Hurricane Katrina will once again confront the trio with Things We Lost to the Water and the question of what can and should be salvaged from the devastation. Copyright 2021 Booklist Reviews.

Review by Publishers Weekly Reviews

Nguyen's captivating debut spans three decades to chronicle the lives of a Vietnamese refugee family. In 1978, Hu o ng arrives in New Orleans with her two sons, five-year-old Tu? n and infant Bì nh. They settle in the Versailles Arms project on the eastern outskirts of the city, where the hurricane alarm reminds Huong of the war, and she mails tape recordings to Cô ng, the husband she left behind. Her messages receive no reply until finally, in a terse postcard, Công urges her to forget him. Huong tells her sons their father died, and over the years, the boys grow to follow different paths. In 1991, Tu?n falls in with a Vietnamese gang, the Southern Boyz. The next summer, Bình, who insists everyone call him Ben, takes refuge in books and a romance with an older white boy. A couple years later, Ben finds Huong's old letters to Công and confronts her, shattering their increasingly fragile bond. As the characters spin away from each other, Nguyen keeps a keen eye on their struggles and triumphs, crafting an expansive portrayal of New Orleans's Vietnamese community under the ever-present threat of flooding, and the novel builds to a haunting conclusion during Hurricane Katrina. Readers will find this gripping and illuminating. Agent: Julie Stevenson, Massie & McQuilkin. (May) Copyright 2021 Publishers Weekly.

Review by Publisher Summary 1

Leaving Vietnam behind, Huong and her two sons adapt to life in New Orleans in different ways as they search for identity as individuals and as a family until disaster strikes the city, forcing them to find a new way to come together.

Review by Publisher Summary 2

"When Huong arrives in New Orleans with her two young sons, she is jobless, homeless, and worried about her husband, Cong, who remains in Vietnam. As she and her boys begin to settle into life in America, she continues to send letters and tapes back to Cong, hopeful that they will be reunited and her children will grow up with a father. Over time, Huong realizes she will never see Cong again. While she copes with this loss, her sons, Tuan and Binh, grow up in their absent father's shadow, haunted by a man and a country trapped in their memory and imagination. As they push forward, the three adapt to life in America in different ways: Huong takes up with a Vietnamese car salesman who is also new in town; Tuan tries to connect with his heritage by joining a local Vietnamese gang; and Binh, now going by Ben, embraces his burgeoning sexuality. Their search for identity--as individuals and as a family--tears them apart, until disaster strikes and they must find a new way to come together and honor the ties that bind them"--

Review by Publisher Summary 3

A stunning debut novel about an immigrant Vietnamese family who settle in New Orleans and struggle to remain connected to one another as their lives are inextricably reshaped.When Huong arrives in New Orleans with her two young sons, she is jobless, homeless, and worried about her husband, Công, who remains in Vietnam. As she and her boys begin to settle into life in America, she continues to send letters and tapes back to Công, hopeful that they will be reunited and her children will grow up with a father.But with time, Huong realizes she will never see her husband again. While she copes with this loss, her sons, Tu'n and Bình, grow up in their absent father's shadow, haunted by a man and a country trapped in their memory and imagination. As they push forward, the three adapt to life in America in different ways: Huong takes up with a Vietnamese car salesman who is also new in town; Tu'n tries to connect with his heritage by joining a local Vietnamese gang; and Bình, now going by Ben, embraces his adopted homeland and his burgeoning sexuality. Their search for identity--as individuals and as a family--threatens to tear them apart. But then disaster strikes the city they now call home, and they must find a new way to come together and honor the ties that bind them.

Review by Publisher Summary 4

A captivating novel about an immigrant Vietnamese family who settles in New Orleans and struggles to remain connected to one another as their lives are inextricably reshaped. This stunning debut is "vast in scale and ambition, while luscious and inviting … in its intimacy” (The New York Times Book Review).When Huong arrives in New Orleans with her two young sons, she is jobless, homeless, and worried about her husband, Cong, who remains in Vietnam. As she and her boys begin to settle in to life in America, she continues to send letters and tapes back to Cong, hopeful that they will be reunited and her children will grow up with a father.But with time, Huong realizes she will never see her husband again. While she attempts to come to terms with this loss, her sons, Tuan and Binh, grow up in their absent father's shadow, haunted by a man and a country trapped in their memories and imaginations. As they push forward, the three adapt to life in America in different ways: Huong gets involved with a Vietnamese car salesman who is also new in town; Tuan tries to connect with his heritage by joining a local Vietnamese gang; and Binh, now going by Ben, embraces his adopted homeland and his burgeoning sexuality. Their search for identity--as individuals and as a family--threatens to tear them apart, un­til disaster strikes the city they now call home and they are suddenly forced to find a new way to come together and honor the ties that bind them.