From Goodreads: Based on traditional Vietnamese ghost stories told to the author by her Vietnamese grandmother but updated to reflect the contemporary ghost of the Vietnam War, here is a mesmerizing collection of thematically linked stories, united by the first and last story of the collection.
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I like to read books about Asia and/or by Asian authors, but most of the ones I’ve read focus on China or Japan. Vietnamese ghost stories are new to me, so I was looking forward to reading this book. It did not disappoint.
There are two aspects of this book that are worth mentioning. One is, of course, the impact the Vietnam War has had on the people of Vietnam. I’ve read several books that explore the experience of American soldiers and people in the United States but this is the first book for me that shows how the war has influenced and shaped the current generation of Vietnamese and their parents. While none of the stories take place during the war, it is mentioned in some way in each one.
The second aspect I enjoyed was that the stories take place in both Vietnam and the United States, so the protagonists of each story are quite different from each other, yet they all have something in common as well. In “Reception,” we have a Vietnamese family running a hotel for Western tourists and one unlucky American businessman. In “Skin and Bones,” we have two teenaged girls who are sent from Houston to their Vietnamese grandmother in Ho Chi Minh City to rediscover their roots. “Guests” is about a young American woman who works for the U.S. Consulate in Ho Chi Minh City, filing visa and dual-citizenship requests for women who claim their children were fathered by Americans. So we get ghost stories from all different point of views, but all with underlying similarities.
I particularly liked “Reception,” about a beautiful young woman who mysteriously appears one day in one of the hotel rooms, and “Little Brother,” about a truck driver who is asked to drive home a young man with an unnamed illness and sent off with the instruction not to talk to the sick man (of course, he doesn’t listen). These are my kind of ghost story—a bit odd and with a sense of creepy foreboding.
I received a free review copy from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.