Daughters of the New Year

Hanover Square: Harlequin. Oct. 2022. 320p. ISBN 9781335429230. $27.99. F
DEBUT Tran’s first novel opens in 2016 New Orleans with matriarchal divorcee Xuan Trung making sure to give horoscopes for the coming lunar new year, based on the Vietnamese zodiac, to each of her three adult daughters: corporate lawyer Trac, aspiring actress Nhi, and Trieu, the youngest, an aspiring writer who works in a gym. Starting off as a single story about a contemporary Vietnamese American family, the narrative gradually unfolds to reveal a beautifully told multigenerational tale tracing the family’s history and genealogy back to the French-owned rubber plantations of Vietnam. Tran writes fluidly as she introduces each character, loosely stringing together their stories with the revelation and meaning of their lunar zodiac signs; identifiable tales of prejudice and strife are unraveled among various ages, genders, and cultures throughout.
VERDICT It’s disappointing that Xuan and her daughters are not revisited once the narrative returns to the past, but Tran’s debut is an engrossing story of the ties among mothers, daughters, and sisters, sprinkled with humor and intrigue. Fans of the strong women protagonists of Min Jin Lee’s Pachinko or Nguyen Phan Que Mai’s The Mountains Sing will likely appreciate this less intensively told family story. Also good for book groups.
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