With today’s review I’m participating in Standalone Sunday, a weekly feature hosted by Megan at Bookslayer Reads. Each Sunday you feature a book that’s not apart of a series (because they deserve love too!).
Timing is everything.
As we witness one of the biggest refugee crises of our time, some are looking to the past as a means to try and connect with the plight of present day refugees.
Viet Thanh Nguyen was a refugee from Vietnam, coming to America in 1975 after the fall of Saigon. A few years after that, his family moved to San Jose, California where they opened a Vietnamese grocery store.
These experiences and more are explored throughout Nguyen’s new short story collection, The Refugees. The eight short stories span across twenty-five plus years and give us a snapshot of individuals and families torn between two worlds. It also includes a couple stories that focus on ‘Americans’ point of view.
I’m not a huge fan of short story collections, because the quality can vary greatly. Which always surprises me, since it’s usually the same author. So I want to give The Refugees all the praise, because even though I had my favorites, I felt like the quality was high overall, and I was interested and invested in all of the stories.
Personally, I think the constant quality doesn’t come from writing style alone, but the different ways Nguyen is able to infuse the themes into each story. How do you make a new home in a foreign land? How do you leave the horrors of war behind?
The only major negative for me can also be interpreted as a positive, as the first story was the best story. The first story, ‘Black Eyed Women,’ was my favorite and an emotional punch to my gut. Sadly, the next seven stories never impacted me as much as the opener. I mean, I had to put the book down because of the tears obstructing my vision.
I also really liked ‘War Years’ and ‘Fatherland’, with the former being the most inspired from the author’s own past, and the latter highlighting the parallels between sisters that grew up in different countries.
I highly recommend The Refugees, especially if, like me, your knowledge about refugees who fled the Vietnam War is limited. One person doesn’t speak for a whole group of people, but I believe Nguyen was able to capture a picture that reflects a struggle that many haven’t experience, but need to understand.