Standalone Sunday is a weekly feature hosted by Megan at Bookslayer Reads. The name of the game is to focus on standalone books, and give them some love in the day of trilogies and big franchises.
After I read The Refugees last week I was excited to see that The Best We Could Do showed up in my Library Holds Queue. While the former focused more on the aftermath of the Vietnam war for refugees in general, the latter zooms in on one family’s experiences during and after the war.
In her memoir, Bui realizes that physical proximity and emotional closeness are not the same, as she moves back to her home state.Even though she lives close to her parents, Bui still feels far away, buried by two sets of expectations, American and Vietnamese, on how to treat her aged parents.
As she tries to understand her parents more, she begins to understand how their relationship got to this point.
“…I began to record our family history… thinking that if I bridged the gap between the past and the present… I could fill the void between my parents and me.
And that if I could see Viet Nam as a symbol of something lost… I would see my parents as real people… and learn to love them better.” (pg.36)
Sometimes it can be monotonous to read books with the same subject matter back-to-back. Since I’m not versed in the Vietnam War, and what I do know is of the American side of the story, I’m really happy that I got to read two books about the war from the Vietnamese perspective.
Both books have very distinct points of view, and know exactly the story they want to tell. By exploring her family’s personal point-of-view, the damage of war is seen and experienced on many different levels. And, sadly, how the struggle continues, even as they arrive in their new homeland. The struggle just changes form, from immediate danger to one of fear and coping.
Bui’s graphic novel is visually stunning. She uses an accent color, a orange-ish hue, to highlight and bring vibrancy. The coloring is used with great effect, much like in Blue is the Warmest Color (another favorite).
I also loved that the novel was both personal and encompassing. If your knowledge of the Vietnam War is bare, then I would highly suggest you read The Best We Could Do. Not only did the story punch me in the gut (emotionally), I feel like I have a far better understanding of what happened in Vietnam.
The biggest compliment that I can give is that as I was returning The Best We Could Do at the library, I was a little sad. I really wanted to keep it, because I knew that I would re-read Bui’s memoir in the future.