The Mountains Sing by Nguyen Phan Que Mai. Algonquin Books 2020. 339pp.
This book is about the Viet Nam war narrated by two women from the Tran family who lived through it.
Everyone wanted that country – the Japanese, the French, the Americans and finally the Chinese Communists who managed the final destruction. And through it all there was so much suffering for the people. No matter which side they tried to be on, it seemed to end up the wrong one. When the Communists finally took over they did away with all the farms that, after all, fed the country.
Huong Dieu Lan, the granddaughter of the matriarch of the Tran family, starts out with her six children to try and get them to a place where they will be fed and safe. It was a seemingly impossible task and along the way she had to make so many devastating decisions.
At this point I stopped reading because it was so hard to keep on, but I eventually went back to it.
This probably will not make you want to read the book, but you should because this war was such a difficult time for our country and there is so much to learn about what was happening. I was living in Colorado then and having such a good time at 8,000 feet in the mountains above Denver that I was not paying much attention to what was going in the world. I just remember that when the American soldiers came back from Viet Nam they were yelled at and spit upon at the airports.
I was glad that I finished this book as it was well worth reading. And although it was fiction, it was good historical fiction.
Whereabouts by Jhumpa Lahiri. Alfred A. Knopf 2021. 157 pp.
This story is told by a woman whose name we are not given. She is living in a city, probably in Italy, but one cannot be sure. Each chapter is different from the previous one. In one she meets her former lover and remembers her past with him. In the next chapter she tells about solitude and how her mother handled it. Then there is the story of her favorite museum and how wonderful it is. Next there is a chapter about a pool that she likes to visit, followed by a chapter about a familiar street with people she knows. There are forty-six chapters in this book, each one three or four pages.
Jhumpa Lahiri has written four books of fiction and one of non-fiction. She has received a number of awards including the Pulitzer Prize.