"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 of itchy dresses and run-down apartments 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 for a father's order."--BOOK JACKET.
I've read a handful of books about Vietnamese people living in America after the war, my favorite being Catfish and Mandala by Andrew X. Pham. This book is focused more on the child's view of the story, specifically the relationship between the narrator and her father, who she refers to as Ba. In the first part of the book Ba is a sort of protector as she struggles to understand American life and customs, while in the rest his happiness deteriorates and he begins drinking heavily. The prose is delightful and simple, filled with the type of wise words one comes to expect when reading something written by, or from the point of view of, children. A child's voice brings a profound sense of innocence and double meaning to each sentence, phrase, and word.
The style of this book also reminded me of Sandra Cisneros's The House on Mango Street but focusing on darker situations and feelings. Only 158 pages of memorable prose but I might have liked it better if it were longer. It feels like most all of the punchlines of each story were vague and full of hints, sometimes it would be nice if they were elaborated upon.