Cover Image: The Mountains Sing

The Mountains Sing

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Member Reviews

Earnest, beautifully written, tragic, and hopefully. A powerful story told from the perspective of a grandmother and granddaughter.  Fantastic.
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It seems almost sacrilegious to say this is a beautifully written book while the content is about two violent periods of Vietnam’s history. Even though surrounded by violence,  respectfulness and gentleness could still be found among the people of Vietnam. This is a story of human endurance, family, loyalty, hope, and the strength of the women.

“If our stories survive, we will not die, even when our bodies are no longer here on earth.” Thus, this story follows two timelines, one of Tran Dieu Lan as a young woman during the time of the Land Reform movement of the mid-twentieth century, and the other is told from the perspective of Guava, Tran Dieu Lan’s granddaughter after the Vietnamese War that involved the US soldiers.

While I was mostly untouched by the Vietnam war, many around me were not. While I am aware of the trauma the returning American soldiers suffered, I never really thought about the Vietnamese soldiers. It was interesting reading about the division of North and South Vietnam and the impact it had on the people there. The timeline involving the Land Reform reminded me of the book “In the Shadow of the Banyan” which I enjoyed immensely.

The author’s short essay at the end of the book was very informational. I am so impressed that she wrote this book while learning the English language! 

I received a copy of this book from Algonquin Books through BookBrowse.  The opinions expressed here are my own.
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A peek into Viet Nam's history from the early days of Communism, through the war, and the aftermath in the 70s, 80s, & 90s.  Told in the voices of Huong and her grandmother, Dieu Lan, we follow the story of the Tran family and how their lives are impacted by the events of the last 50 years. Huong loves her grandmother, but doesn't really understand the dynamics of her family and why some family members are missing or at odds with others. Through a series of stories, Huong's grandmother, mother, and uncle fill in the missing pieces. Each chapter is titled with a date and place to minimize confusion as the story shifts times & places. 

I think this is a new story for most Americans -- we know the US version of Viet Nam's history, but this is from the perspective of a family from the North. The Tran family tells a very personal story that's heartbreaking and still hopeful. A perfect example of how family, faith, and love surpasses any cultural differences and national boundaries. A very touching story. Some reviews compare this book to "Pachinko" and I can see why, but I don't think the writing is quite as lyrical as that book. Nguyen's book does contain a wonderful generational story, but  I think the writing was lacking some of the depth and beauty of "Pachinko". 

One caution -- I am only marginally familiar with Vietnamese place and personal names. Many of the names and places in this book seemed very similar to me and, therefore, I was often confused.  That's my problem, not the author's -- I was pleased to see that names & places were not "Americanized".  This added to the authenticity.
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This book broke my heart over and over. I wasn't prepared for how beautiful and traumatic the writing is. An absolute must-read steeped in history.
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This was a beautifully written novel about life in Vietnam between the 1930s and  present day.  It explained all the terrible struggles the people in Vietnam had to endure, especially in the North near Hanoi. It  starts with the French occupation followed by fighting between the communist north and the south aided by the Americans. In between is the terrible Land Reform. The story is told by a grandmother in charge of her granddaughter in the 70s. All her children are away fighting in the domestic north-south war. During this time she tells her granddaughter about her past and how they ended up in Hanoi. Fascinating to read and so sad at times.
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Amazing story of love and personal growth. I highly recommend this book. The writing is so lyrical and beautiful.. I would love to read more books by this author.
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I know a little about the Vietnam War but have never felt I knew as much as I should, so I decided to read this book, hoping to learn more. I had not realized that this book started with the history of Vietnam much earlier than the Vietnam war, which made this book even better. It was enlightening to read about the period of 1930-1950, where the country endured the Japanese invasion, the Great Hunger, and the Land Reform Revolution. The Vietnamese had suffered a lot of horrible things before the Vietnam War ever came along. I appreciated being able to learn all this in the form of an eloquently written fiction novel with such vivid characters and a heartbreaking story. This book would have been utterly depressing, had it not also demonstrated the incredible power of the human spirit. I feel like I understand a lot more about what the people and this country have been through. I highly recommend this book.

Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for an advanced copy to review.

My Rating: 5 Stars
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The story shows a country, torn apart after decades of war through showing feelings of family, justice and the reality of war.
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This has to be the best book of the year. "But war isn’t kindness or sympathy, Hương. War is death, sorrow, and misery." This quote really sums up this book. It's ruthless, unapologetic, and still connects the humanity. Beautifully written tales weaving the intergenerational tales of Vietnamese people during the war. How everyone's lives changed and how different the perspectives were from child to grandparents. I hope this will become required reading for all high schools-it's an incredible piece of literature.
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very beautiful, important, and enlightening. I enjoyed every page of this book. I would encourage every reader to pick this one up.
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I enjoyed this story and structurally found the alternating timelines and perspectives worked beautifully together. There was a lyricism to the prose that made this particularly great as an audiobook.
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Requested as background reading for a First impressions Promotion on BookBrowse consisting of 3 weeks featured on the site and two newsletter features, booked by marketing. The book was so well received by our readers that in addition we ran an Editor's Choice feature consisting of review and article:

Review:
https://www.bookbrowse.com/mag/reviews/index.cfm/ref/37260800/the-mountains-sing#reviews
Beyond the Book:
https://www.bookbrowse.com/mag/btb/index.cfm/ref/37260800/the-mountains-sing#btb
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During the '60s, dinnertime at my house was accompanied by the soundtrack and images of the war in Viet Nam,. It was horrible to watch because other than the protests, battles and body counts, we never learned the cultural or political history of Viet Nam. Sadly, we did not learn about the people. This is void is filled in The Mountains Sing, a family saga which follows two timelines to relay the history of one North Viet Namese family as they endure the Great Hunger Famine, Land reform, and the War. The   One timeline follows Trấn Diệu Lan, the Grandmother, who was born in 1920, into a prosperous farming family. The second timeline follows Hủỏng, her Granddaughter, who lives with her grandmother while her parents are away fighting in the War. Her father is a soldier, and her mom is a doctor.  Grandmother and her six adult children embrace rival political beliefs, which results in relationship fractures, and the effects of the war are evidenced through physical and emotional and maladies. The descriptions of the mountains, towns and roads will draw the reader into the story, one that everyone should read., and one I have already recommended to several people.
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A story putting flesh to the notion of North Vietnamese. As one character, who loves to read, states that when reading books about Americans, specifically, Little House in the Big Woods), she realizes that they have families they love as much as she loves hers. Sometimes I had a hard time keeping characters straight as the Vietnamese language is foreign to me. Places and names are unrecognizable except Saigon and Hanoi.
Much sadness and tragedy. Don’t read if you’re looking for something beautiful and light.
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A very moving family saga that explores Vietnam and it's many tragedies. Through the eyes of the Tran family, the reader experiences WWII, the great famine of Vietnam, the Korean War, and the Vietnamese War. I learned a lot about Vietnamese history that I didn't previously know, and was engrossed in this family's story.
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Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai’s debut English-language novel The Mountains Sing is strikingly beautiful. The prose is lyrical while also accessible, weaving stories told by a grandmother and granddaughter into a narrative that is heartbreaking and then reaffirming a hundred times over. This book is a challenging read and may be triggering to some (war, death, abandonment). For readers who are interested in learning more about Vietnam and its history, this is an accessible historical fiction told by an author who grew up in Vietnam. 

The Mountains Sing takes place over the past century in Vietnam, taking the reader through important points in the country's history. The Great Hunger, Land Revolution, the Vietnam War are the big stories in which the smaller stories of everyday life weave through.  We visit the cities of Hanoi, Saigon (now Ho Chi Minh City), and Nam Định and see a family’s fortune change in two short generations. We experience family gains and losses, abandonments, and profound tragedies. I enjoyed the conversational narrative, which brought much-needed levity during heavy subjects (like when grandma Diệu Lan shows granddaughter Hương how to Kick-Poke-Chop to protect herself). 

Hương theorizes about life at the end of the book, which summarizes the themes of The Mountains Sing well: “Human lives were short and fragile. Time and illnesses consumed us, like flames burning away these pieces of wood. But it didn’t matter how long or short we lived. It mattered how much light we were able to shed on those we loved and how many people we touched with our compassion.” 

The Mountains Sing is an all-the-stars, best-book-I-expect-to-read-this-year kind of book. I hope you pick it up and read it too.  It will be published on March 17, 2020. 

Thank you to @netgalley and @algonquinbooks for a chance to read this complimentary advanced readers copy of this book. Opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own.

I have posted also this review to my website, Goodreads, Instagram, Facebook and Amazon accounts. Thank you!
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A silent masterpiece! Powerfully told through the voices of a grandmother and her granddaughter this novel propels the reader into the heart of the Vietnamese people’s struggle to survive during their country’s turbulent political past. Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai’s writing is raw, unadorned and ‘rough around the edges’ which lends perfectly to this story’s brutal authenticity and power. My heart is literally still aching...
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This is a beautifully written, moving novel about the Vietnam War era told from the perspective of a young Vietnamese woman and her beloved grandmother.  As Americans, we don't hear this part of the story.  The situations in the novel are often violent and brutal.  The story  is heart wrenching, but the hope and persistence of the characters is amazing.  It's the authors first novel written in English and it's amazing that English is not the author's first language.
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I'm such a sucker for a multigenerational family saga and this book did not disappoint. I found The Mountains Sing so refreshing for its depiction of war that doesn't center the United States. We don't hear a lot about the brutality of the Vietnam War from the perspective of the Vietnamese from Vietnamese voices. I knew very little about the history of Vietnam and learned so much through this book. The inclusion of Vietnamese language is really refreshing and depth to the narrative. A beautiful and important read.
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A family saga spanning the WWII through after the victory of the North Vietnamese over the south. At times a heart-wrenching story with many engaging characters. The family's story involves many of the tragedies that the Vietnamese people suffered through over the course of invasions and wrenching political changes. So many books about Vietnam have a western-centric perspective and focus on western characters. This book focuses almost exclusively on Vietnamese characters. One of the best books I have read so far this year.
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