Cover Image: The Mountains Sing

The Mountains Sing

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Member Reviews

The Mountains Sing by Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai

4 stars

“We didn’t perish that day, in November 1972. After the sirens had signaled that it was safe, Grandma and I emerged, shivering thin leaves. We staggered out to the street. Several buildings had collapsed, their rubble spilling onto our path.”

Hương lives in the midst of the Vietnam War. Her family has all gone to serve in the war except for her grandmother, Tran Dieu Lan, who takes care of her and protects her. Hương’s grandmother will do everything to keep her granddaughter alive. The Mountain Sings follow the story of a family and the pain that they have faced through the turmoil of Vietnam breaking apart. This is an intense and harrowing novel that leaves the horrifying decay of war on the reader’s palate. This novel’s song cry is that war is evil. It rips families and people apart. It turns people into monsters. This is a great historical exploration of the Vietnamese people and the wars, oppression, and Communism that they have faced by exploring three generations of a family. This is a beautiful novel steeped in emotional turmoil and the riches of storytelling. The grandmother’s story of being cursed to lose all her wealth and wander into a new city faraway is a beautiful way to bridge the gap between the generations. The writing leaves a phenomenal emotional punch and it is hands down what makes this novel so great. The writing is patient, but also brutally honest in portraying that war decimates people and families. There is something to enjoy in every chapter as well as be horrified by. This is a novel that will stick with the reader.


Whimsical Writing Scale: 4.5

The main female characters are Hương and Tran Dieu Lan. Even though the novel does not specifically follow Dieu Lan’s point of view, her storytelling immerses the reader into understanding the horrors of the Communist Party and the Land Reform Movement. The Land Reform Movement is a harrowing moment in Vietnam history where the party went into villages with quotas to kill people who owned land. Dieu Lan happens to be a land owner with six children. She embarks on a harsh and rough journey to save her children and make it to the city of Hà Noi. In contrast, we follow Hương as she has to grow up in the turmoil of the Vietnam War and the sorrow of waiting for her parents and uncles to come back from the war. Both narratives have impactful and sorrowful stories bridged with hope and longing. However, the weakest aspect of this novel is Hương’s characterization. She doesn't feel fully fleshed out. She is steeped in immaturity for most of the novel (which is fine because she’s a child), but for a long time it does not seem like she is going to change or grow. She does change, but it doesn’t feel like her growth is fully realized and by the end of the novel I was left wanting more. The characterization in this novel overall leaves much to be desired.


Kick-Butt Heroine Scale: 3.5

The characters throughout are given storylines that expand through the novel, but are hindered by not being given enough pieces in the story to be fully fleshed out. I enjoyed following the different characters. My particular favorites were Uncle Dat, Hương’s mother, and Tam (Hương’s love interest in her teenage years). There were a lot of different facets to the story because of how many characters we follow.


Character Scale: 4

The Mountains Sing exudes a wide range of storytelling and uncovers the heart of Vietnam’s history. It is a beautiful novel written with a lot of heart. Overall, this is a promising novel in the historical fiction genre that you won’t want to miss. If it wasn’t on your radar before, it should be! I would recommend this to readers interested in reading about the Vietnam War from the perspective of the Vietnamese people and readers who love generational stories and storytelling.


Plotastic Scale: 4.25

Cover Thoughts: This cover is one of my favorites. It is absolutely stunning and in person, it's beautiful!

Thank you, Algonquin Books for providing me with a copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review and being a part of the blog tour.
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The writing of The Mountains Sing was very lyrical and beautiful. This book covers difficult themes of life in a war torn country and a country struggling among much conflict. But often those themes were not difficult to read about and I think it was because the writing was so lyrical. It was like the writing didn’t fit the subject. I don’t think that made me dislike the book but did make it hard for me to feel connected to the characters. I wanted to feel the anguish they must have felt but I didn’t really. 

I really enjoyed learning about Vietnam. This book takes place in Vietnam and is about the people of Vietnam. Their history, their culture, their traditions. I really enjoyed learning about Vietnam and the struggles that country has faced. I also enjoyed learning about the Vietnam War through the perspective of the Vietnamese people. 

Though I didn’t feel connected to the characters and wanted to feel more emotion to the events that were happening, and wanted to be shown things instead of told, I enjoyed my experience reading The Mountains Sing. The writing and the history I learned made up for the things I didn’t feel.
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The Mountains Sing is a beautiful historical family saga set in North Vietnam told from the perspective of Huong, who comes of age during what we Americans think of as the Vietnam War, and her Grandmother Dieu Lan, the family matriarch who experiences firsthand the political changes in Vietnam that are born out of French Imperialism.

I learned so much about Vietnam politics and culture reading The Mountains Sing. As an American,  Vietnam has become symbolic of the atrocities of an unjust war and the aftershocks when "our boys" come home. In this story, Que Mai artfully shifts our American perspective, reminding us that those atrocities happened in the land of the Vietnamese, that everything American troops suffered during that conflict was at even more expense to innocent Vietnamese lives.

Further, the novel has a very defined sense of place; I felt like I could fully imagine all of the places Que Mai took me throughout the novel, from rugged mountain caves to the city streets of Ha Noi. Combine all of this with beautiful writing, a fully developed plot, and the theme of strong family bonds, this novel was an excellent read for me.
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Tragic, courageous, beautiful and hopeful. These are the circumstances described in the multigenerational saga. Set against the background of the Vietnam War, this is the story of the Tran family. Raised as a child of a well off farmer, Tran Dish Lan, a mother with six children is unprepared for the brutality of the Land reform, as the Communist government rose to power in North Vietnam. Forced to flee, she struggles to keep her family together.

Years later we once again find this formidable woman, now doing everything she can to keep her granddaughter safe, while waiting for her son's who had gone off to fight. The traditions and language, their struggles, hopes and fears of these people who are confronted with a war fought on their doorstep are poignantly displayed. There are many who are cruel, but little kindnesses are vital to those just trying to survive. War and other tragic circumstances bring out the worst but also the best in people. 

The writing is both poignant and beautiful. This is a beautiful country being torn apart by war. Exemplifying the human cost of ordinary people dealing with a war, not of their making.
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I did not know anything about Vietnamese history before I got an ARC copy of this novel from the publisher. 

The characters and everything about this novel had me completely absorbed. 

The Mountains Sing is a journey of tradition, of discovery of personal fights for every single character in a fascinating but war-torn country.

Asian culture, and any culture, is interesting to me. The visuals and description are excellent. The Mountains Sing is an exceptional novel and an outstanding debut. 

Just as enthralling as Memoirs of a Geisha, or Yaa Gyashi's Homegoing, both of which I enjoyed very much. 

Thanks to Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai and Algonquin Books for my ARC in exchange for an honest and voluntary review. 

5 sparkling stars although it deserves a lot more. Loved it. (less)
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The Mountains Sing book review -
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Another 5 star book for me. I feel like I'm on a roll. Thank you for the advanced reading copy in exchange for an honest review algonquinbooks and nguyenphanquemai_ .
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Today is my stop for the Instagram Book Tour and I am so excited to chat with you all about this fantastic novel.
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Historical fiction is one of my favourite genres and this novel did not disappoint. I found myself instantly drawn into the story. Theres a bit of time hopping and what I love about it is that you get a well-rounded view of the family being written about. What happened in their past certainly shaped who they were in the future. You can't help but feel for each of them.
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I'd recommend this to fans of Pachinko, Molokai, Homegoing and The Hundred Secret Senses.
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Gorgeous and miracle a poignant tale of resilience and heart. Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai's lush and vivid storytelling transported me to Vietnam. The story spans most of 20th century Vietnam told from alternating perspectives in dual timelines from grandmother and granddaughter. 1950s Trần Diệu Lan is Born the daughter of a wealthy farmer. As a young girl she was told by a palm reader that she would live a hard life and indeed she did. From the death of her father to the great hunger to the land reform, to the Vietnam war she stood strong and fought hard for her life and the lives of her loved ones. 1970s Hương is living with her grandmother while her parents are off at war fighting against South Vietnam  and the Americans. A young girl growing up in the shadows of war, tradition, and change. Both these storylines were equally riveting, heartwrenching, compelling, and beautiful.

    As an American I have always thought of the Vietnam war as an American tragedy, where the average age of the combat soldier was 19. This book was very eye-opening and really made me realize that the people of Vietnam suffered even more then I could ever imagine. The French, the Japanese, and then the Americans all invading, forcing their own ideologies on the people of Vietnam for decades. I cannot adequately express how remarkable this book was and I encourage everyone to pick it up.

   Quyen Ngo narrates this audio book bringing the perfect tone to this story’s beautiful pros. There are Vietnamese sayings told in Vietnamese sprinkled throughout this book and it was lovely to hear them read to me in Vietnamese. I really love learning so much about the Vietnamese culture and people in this book. I love when a book gives us a glimpse into different cultures and traditions. This is the first book in English from Vietnamese poet Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai and I am definitely hoping it is not her last. Simply stunning!

This book in emojis  🇻🇳 👩‍👧 🍵 📚 👩🏻‍⚕️ 

*** Big thank you to Algonquin Books for my gifted copy of this book. All opinions are my own. ***
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Thank you so much to Algonquin for a free copy of this book to review. 
4⭐️

This book was so heartbreakingly beautiful. Set against the backdrop of the Vietnam War, this book sweeps across multiple generations of the Tran family. It flips back and forth between Huong, a teenager waiting for her parents and uncles to come home from war, hiding in bomb shelters with her grandmother. Then back in time to share the horrors that her grandmother went through. A young woman in her 20s wit six children, forced to flee from her family farm and somehow survive on her own. 

This book is heavy, not going to lie. This fictional family has been through so many things it’s hard to believe that they could still have any hope. But they do. Throughout everything, they never lose hope that they will see each other again and be together as a family. 

This family might be fictional, but the horrors they went through are not. The author drew from her own families experiences and the experiences of others she researched and it shows. It’s hard to imagine these things happening but they did and we need to learn about them to stop them from happening again. 

Overall, I’d recommend this book if you love historical fiction and sweeping family tales. But just make sure to be in the right head space for it. 

TW: war, murder, rape, abortion, stillbirth, violence.
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Thank you again to Algonquin Books and Netgalley for allowing me to participate in the blog tour for this incredible book. The Mountains Sing by Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai is a family saga told from the perspective of a grandmother and a granddaughter across different time periods. By doing this, the reader learns of the different events that have shaped Vietnam’s political and cultural identity.

After reading this book, I was not surprised to realize I’ve never read anything like it. When we learn about Vietnam or the Vietnam war, it is often through a Westernized lens. Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai’s lyrical writing really puts the family at the heart of this story, as well as the civilians who were the real victims of war and colonialism. It reminds us that there was a life before the Vietnam War, and there will continue to be one after.

I admit, it was overwhelming at times to read this book, as I read this book right before the shelter-in-place order in the Bay Area. But despite the images of war, tragedy, and uncertainty, forgiveness and human kindness continued to persist, and it made me hopeful. I loved reading about the Tran family, and particularly of the perseverance of the female characters. 

I hope you all check this book out. It’s out now, and I highly recommend grabbing a copy because the cover is stunning in person!
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The Mountains Sing was such a heartfelt, sometimes very heartbreaking story. The beginning is quite explosive, it grips you and holds you throughout the book. Following this family throughout their life journey was an intense yet intimate reading experience. The grandmother and granddaughter endured such devastation you wonder if and how they will ever make it through. The way the author handled the deep yearning the granddaughter had for the return of her mother and father, men and women coming home from war and rape were all handled with such care, such love. I felt the greatest connection to the grandmother. I was blown away by her strength, constant love, ambition, how she handled her own pain, her love of family and community; she was an incredible character. The Mountains Sing was a beautifully written story. I highly recommend you read this book.
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There is an underlying beauty and soft-spoken love in this family’s generational story of Vietnam from the mid-1940s to 1980. The novel begins in the middle of the Vietnam War as Huong and her grandmother take shelter from falling bombs. From there, the story weaves through time as Huong’s grandmother tells Huong about her life and her children’s early lives during the rise of communism, the hardships, struggles and fight for life preceding the Vietnam War. Weaving back to Huong’s narration, her family members begin to finally return home from the Vietnam War, but face the challenges of recovery and coming to terms with what they’ve endured and what they’ve lost. As Huong’s family members begin to return from the Vietnam War, Huong, her grandmother, and each of her relatives must come to terms with the aftermath of the war and 

Over and over, this novel seems to be a meditation on how people define home and a sense of place and belonging when social and governmental upheaval land on the doorstep and war threatens to destroy it all. I don’t know that there are definitive answers to what each of us calls home or how we connect with the people and land around us, but for me this book offers one definitive impression: forgiveness, love, and compassion seem to be what grow and nurture a soul.
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Going into this book I knew next to nothing about Vietnam in general so I was looking forward to learning about it from an #ownvoices perspective.

We get to see Vietnam from two different perspectives in two different time-periods. The grandmother's perspective is from before the war and what led this family to be where it was when the war started. Then we have the granddaughter's perspective and from it, we get to see the war through the eyes of a child, as well as the years after the war. 
The Mountains sing is a very family-focused book and we get to know and love this family throughout the story. Of course, this means that we also get to see a lot of ups and downs as we're getting to see many years go by and the struggles that the family faces. These struggles go from ones caused by the war to ones just in the family-like every family has. 

Overall I loved this book! Getting to see such a wide time-span not only let me get to know and love Vietnam but also to love this family. So many things happened and a lot of very real-life problems end up being covered in The Mountains Sing. We have mental health issues covered that were caused by the war in PTSD form as well as guilt, and one of the family members now feeling shame for having an injury from the war. We have another family member making a tough choice to provide for the family in a way that isn't well thought of. 
All of this is going on while we have the granddaughter just growing up and trying to figure out what she wants to do in the world. She's creating a life of her own and its one so nice to see amongst all the heartache so many others in her family were feeling. 

One thing that showed throughout this entire book was the love of family, and the will to survive through extremely dark and trying times. 

This book is my top pick for hard-hitting reads for the year!
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The Mountains Sing tells the story of a Vietnamese family over several generations. This story moves from when Viet Nam was a French colony prior to World War II through the Viet Nam conflict and then ends in the present day. Not being very familiar with the history of Viet Nam, The Mountains Sing provides an up close look at the horrific experiences of the Tran family throughout several generations. Told primarily from the grandmother's point of view, the story follow them as their family rises to a place of influence, is brought down to the depths of poverty and despair, and cycles through everything between and in particular highlights societal conflict among the Vietnamese people. 

The Mountains Sing is not a fast or easy read.  The story is a bit slow-paced as the narrator changes from the grandmother to the granddaughter frequently. Their experiences are frequently horrific and not easy to read. The story also provides a first-hand look at the customs and beliefs of the primarily Buddhist characters. Readers who enjoy reading diverse books or family sagas may enjoy The Mountains Sing.

I received a complementary copy via NetGalley. All opinions are my own.
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Think Vietnam, and what comes to your mind is the epic disaster by the Americans. But Vietnamese had been fighting intruders long before that. First the French, then the Japanese. It also had to fight an internal war from the Great Hunger to the Land Reform.

While it conjures up pictures of soldiers, the real victims of war are civilians. People trying to survive, caught between two warring factions. Vietnamese history is colored with blood.

The Mountains Sing by Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai is a vivid and gripping account of Vietnam’s 20th century history. Narrated in the first person (a grandmother and a granddaughter) across two timelines, the book explores events from the 1920s to the 2010s. The writing is lyrical and descriptive, instantly pulling you in and transporting you to the paddy fields of Vietnam.

Trần Diệu Lan is the grandmother born in 1920 who is forced to flee with her children when the Communist government’s Land Reform policy practically destroys her family. A tenacious woman, her story is gripping.

Hương is the granddaughter born in times of the Vietnam war. It is a coming of age story where the young girl raised pertinent questions about humanity and hatred.

The book also explores the lives of Trần Diệu Lan’s six children. Most of them soldiers who fought the Vietnam war, it is a gripping account of the human side of the war. It is peppered with Vietnamese proverbs that made it an interesting read. It also explores the rich culture and traditions.

The book is heartbreaking and uplifting at the same time. It is a book that overwhelms you with the vivid details of war and trauma. But at the same time, you cannot stop turning the pages amazed by the grit and determination of Diệu Lan.

The Mountains Sing is an important book. It speaks about the human side of war and conflict. It speaks of chemical warfare (the infamous Agent Orange) that continues to have its damaging impact. It speaks of politics and reckless decisions. At the same time, it also speaks of humanity in adverse times. It speaks of hope and the will to survive.

I cannot recommend the book enough. It is definitely one of my favorite books of the year. If you loved Pachinko, you should definitely pick this one up. Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai’s debut novel in English is not to be missed.
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Thank you to @algonquinbooks for the opportunity to read this breathtaking family saga, which is available today.

I love books because they allow me to go places I might otherwise never be able to go. The Mountains Sing is a perfect example; I was carried away to the landscape of Vietnam.

This sweeping novel tells the tale of the Tran family. A family riddled with hardship and tragedy, severed by war. It begins in 1972, Huong is a teenage girl living with her grandmother, Dieu Lan. Huong’s parents and uncles are off fighting in a war that is ravaging their beloved country.
Dieu Lan has seen so much heartbreak, so much death, but she has persevered. She tells Huong the stories of her childhood. Stories of the French Occupation, the Japanese Invasion, and the Land Reform of the Communist government that forced her off her land with nothing but her children in tow.

Dieu Lan has experienced many tragedies and now her own children are living through their own nightmares. She will do everything she can to hold her family together and help her young granddaughter have a bright future. 

Although this story is tragic and unsettling, Que Mai paints such a beautiful picture. She uses the sights and sounds from the city streets to the dense forests to place you alongside Dieu Lan and Huong. The text is peppered with the language and proverbs of the Vietnamese people so that you feel immersed within the rich and time-honored culture.

What makes this book exceptional is that Que Mai has hit on the humanity of war, and adversity. She expertly shows that you may not always be fighting an enemy. Often it’s just someone who wants to go home to their family as you do.

@nguyenphanquemai_ has added author’s notes that I highly suggest reading. They tell of her own journey in writing this book; the labor of love that it truly is.
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When I first immerse into a book I am no longer I, but ego dissolves away into an eye, absorbed completely into the world of the story, remerging at the end with that snap of the spiritual umbilicus. I use birth imagery here in part because the emotions seem to be akin in a way; the joy that comes of an intensely immersive book whelms that painful separation and summary reintroduction of the I.  The Mountains Sing is just such an immersive book.  

Covering four generations, weaving back and forth from the 1930s to the now, The Mountains Sing is a deeply felt, authentic immersion in the lives of ordinary people whose existence has been marked by invasion, occupation, and political upheaval.   

Quế Mai employs two narrators, grandmother and granddaughter, and setpieces during specific events in North Vietnam during the middle decades of the twentieth century. The first protagonist is grandmother Trấn Diệu Lan, born in 1920 into a well-to-do farming family of several generations’ standing. The second narrative voice is granddaughter Hủỏng, roughly my own age, growing up during the period of the Vietnam-American War.  

Quế Mai states in material accompanying the advanced reading copy that this novel was her attempt to respond to Hollywood movies and novels written by Westerners “who continue to see her country only as a place of war and Vietnamese people as mostly silent extras who, when they do speak, appear simple, naïve, cruel, or opportunistic.”  

While she set aside her childhood dreams of being a writer for a long time, in order to earn a living and support her family, Quế Mai found the writer within “always listened to other people in secret, asked what they had gone through and memorized their stories. In my teenage years, I began to travel to the villages of my parents to talk to the elderly, to be able to imagine how life had been for my grandparents, who had either died or been killed. Gradually, thanks to my understanding of Việt Nam’s painful past, my parents and their friends started to share with me the events of their lives. Unknown to me, I was carrying out my real-life research for THE MOUNTAINS SING.”  

Quế Mai employs her considerable skill as a poet to throw down the boundaries between past and present, between this world and that. Reading this novel now, as the world shares the uncertainty of the developing pandemic, was a deeply unsettling reminder of just how fragile our infrastructures are. She evokes, with sensory brilliance, life in the northern part of Vietnam before war, and then the new and horrible realities as a result of the social contract being utterly eviscerated.  

The unusual structure, the fascinating shifts in mood, the vivid detail given to every character no matter how briefly seen, draw the reader directly into experience, much of it horrific, as a family is torn apart (Hủỏng’s father a soldier, her mother a doctor, one uncle vanished, another killed in the Land Reform period in the mid 1950s, ten years before the ruptures of China’s Cultural Revolution) and then, painfully, slowly, reknits itself.   

There is plenty of violence, but the focus is not “war novel.” It’s the story of a family, synecdoche for a nation as it tears itself apart and then works to reweave itself. Quế Mai does not mire the reader in unending misery, though horror is present—the warm colors of the cover are a disturbing reminder of Agent Orange, whose effects are viscerally presented in these pages. 

She also takes the time to evoke the beauty of the countryside, the simple details of everyday life, the proverbs passed down the generations that enrich life.   Fiction can go places that a history or a biography cannot: the author presents the worst of human behavior, but also its best in demonstrating empathy, kindness, hope, and even forgiveness, told in fluid, vivid prose with passion and the resonance of verisimilitude.  

This is one of those books that makes me think of Vergil when he said: Non canimus surdis, respondent omnia silvae, or Not to deaf ears I sing, for the woods echo my singing. 

 Especially these uneasy days, let us read—talk—celebrate the best of the human spirit striving against the worst of its sins, and come away from this novel resolving not to go there again.
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I’m having a really hard time trying to find the words to express my love for this book.
It’s written beautifully. The writing captivated me right away, it flowed really well, it was well paced and lyrical.
The story extends over several generations, and despite that, it kept my interest throughout. I wish I could say that I couldn’t put it down, but at times I had to as I was getting overwhelmed with emotion. The book offered a lot of insight into historical events that I was unfamiliar with before it. It did spark my interest for more information with how well the circumstances were described though. I think that, because of these descriptions, as well as the characters that were well-developed and vivid, the book offers a one of a kind glimpse into the culture and mentality of Việt Nam.
The Mountains Sing is an important read that you shouldn’t miss out on.
I absolutely recommend it.
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Vietnamese poet, Nguyen Phan Que Mai, tells “an enveloping, multigenerational tale of the Tran family, set against the backdrop of the VietNam War'' in her first English novel, The Mountains Sing. With its publication date set for March 17th, this novel is already taking the world by storm with its poetic writing and mesmerizing imagery.
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 of VietNam. 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. This novel 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.
As someone who didn’t know a lot about Vietnam’s history, I was astounded by the amount of war and revolution that the country went through over the decades. This novel truly lives up to the main reason I read historical fiction: to learn more about people whose lives were shaped by certain moments in time. The Mountains Sing is a beautiful and realistic look at the hardships people endured during the VietNam War and Land Reforms of the 1950s. The alternating chapters between Huong and her grandmother’s POVs weave together an engaging and haunting story of the struggles and strife certain people had to go through in order to survive. I think that Nguyen Phan Que Mai’s novel portrays an underrepresented perspective in historical fiction and has opened my eyes to life for the Vietnamese people during this time period.
This novel truly shows what war and evil can do to the world. However, even during the bleakest of times, hope and goodness will win out. Throughout both Dieu Lan and Hương’s lives, the reader sees examples of people’s cruelty and kindness in different circumstances and how these moments are mirrored in both the past and present.
This novel shows the harsh realities of war and depicts violent actions enacted against the Tran family. However, beautiful imagery of lotus flowers and delicious descriptions of pho really bring this novel to life and create an engaging story that readers will be enveloped in. I fell in love with both Dieu Lan and Huong and didn't want the story of the Tran family to end.
Poetic and richly woven with Vietnamese proverbs and traditions, The Mountains Sing is a novel that will open your eyes to the different cultures and lifestyles in this world. This novel acts as a love letter of sorts to VietNam and I highly recommend checking this book out to get a glimpse at a monumental time in history from one (or two) people’s perspectives.
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This book is a heartbreaking look a family’s journey. Told by two voices - granddaughter and grandmother - it takes you through what the family endured before, during, and after the Vietnam War. This book provides so much more insight into what it looked like to live in Vietnam during this time, and I learned so much more than I did in history class. This is a wonderful debut novel from this author. Definitely recommend picking it up.0
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Disclaimer: I received this book from the publisher. Thanks! All opinions are my own.

Book: The Mountains Sing

Author: Nguyen Phan Que Mai (I can’t do the accent marks to properly spell their name, so sorry!)

Book Series: Standalone

Rating: 4/5

Diversity: Vietnamese Main Family!

Publication Date: March 17, 2020

Genre: Historical Fiction

Recommended Age: 16+ (war, violence, slight gore, family conflict)

Publisher: Algonquin Books

Pages: 352

Amazon Link

Synopsis: 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 Trần family, set against the backdrop of the Việt Nam War. Trần Diệu 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 Nội, her young granddaughter, Hương, comes of age as her parents and uncles head off down the Hồ Chí Minh Trail to fight in a conflict that tore not just her beloved country, but her family apart.

Vivid, gripping, and steeped in the language and traditions of Việt 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.

The Mountains Sing is celebrated Vietnamese poet Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai’s first novel in English.

Review: I thought this book was very well written and almost lyrical in how it was written. The book is a multi-generational book (kind of like Roots) where this family weaves their story together. It’s a wonderful tale that describes the absolute horrors, but absolute strength of people in war time.

However, I did feel like the characters didn’t connect with me. I’m not sure if it was because we were just forced into each character or if it was just the slow pacing that didn’t make me connect with the book, but I kind of want to reread it to try and connect with them again.

Verdict: Definitely recommend!
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