The Mountains Sing

Algonquin. Mar. 2020. 352p. ISBN 9781616208189. $26.95. F
An engrossing story of family, adversity, war, loss, and triumph, Vietnamese poet/journalist Nguyen’s first novel written in English is narrated in tandem by Hoang and her grandmother Dieu Lan, with Hoang chronicling her survival as a young teenager in 1970s Vietnam and her grandmother describing the hardships she endured during initial fighting in the 1950s. With her six children mostly serving their country, their whereabouts unknown, Dieu Lan becomes caretaker to Hoang, relaying to her a life story that begins with her growing up the sole daughter of a successful farming family in the North, then fighting to escape to the South with her young children in tow as war descends. What finally unfolds is the matriarchal Tran family’s saga from 1930 to 2017, told lovingly to convey family bonds but never skimping on the gritty and emotionally disturbing details of war. 
VERDICT Recalling Min Jin Lee and Lisa See, Nguyen displays a lush and captivating storyteller’s gift as she effortlessly transports readers to another world, leaving them wishing for more. This may be Nguyen’s first novel published here, but one can only hope it will not be the last. [See Prepub Alert, 9/9/19.]
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