FORTHCOMING ON MARCH 17, 2020 BY ALGONQUIN BOOKS
EARLY PRAISE FOR THE MOUNTAINS SING
"The Mountains Sing is an epic account of Việt Nam's painful 20th century history, both vast in scope and intimate in its telling. Through the travails of one family, Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai brings us close to the horrors of famine, war, and class struggle. But in this moving and riveting novel, she also shows us a postwar Việt Nam, a country of hope and renewal, home to a people who have never given up."
—Viet Thanh Nguyen, author of The Sympathizer, winner of the Pulitzer Prize
"Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai has written a wonderful, intricate story of the lives of a Vietnamese family trying to make it through generations of war. The Mountains Sing is a beautiful story of the simple challenge of keeping a family together and the courage of perseverance. It is told with the sureness of a master storyteller with a poet's spirit. A large and complicated story, marvelous to read."
—Larry Heinemann, author of Paco's Story, winner of the National Book Award
"Somehow I was sure that if people were willing to read each other...there would be no war on earth," says Hương, one of the two female narrators of this astonishing novel. Over the last two decades we have been gifted with works by Vietnamese writers who have brought us into the consciousness of those that Americans saw only as backdrops for their own stories. Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai not only adds to that rich body of work, she daringly transcends it. Revolution, mass starvation, invasion, and civil war, catastrophe and tragedy--and the ways they are succumbed to or overcome with grace and courage and compassion—are so commonplace in Vietnamese history that every family's story is cursed to be epic. But it takes a writer such as Ms. Quế Mai to distill and personalize that universal narrative of pain and triumph, of love and hate, of trauma and courage, into a remarkable multi-generational story of one family that embodies that history, as told by two strong women you will never forget: Grandmother Diệu Lan and her granddaughter Hương.
—Wayne Karlin, author of Wandering Souls, winner of the Vietnam Veterans of America Excellence in the Arts Award
"A poignant and vivid portrayal of a brutal slice of Vietnamese history from a perspective that is so rarely heard abroad: that of the Vietnamese themselves. We are starkly reminded of how those wars – and wars everywhere – wash over and drown both the guilty and innocent alike."
—Doreen Baingana, author of Tropical Fish, winner of the Commonwealth Writers' Prize, best first book, Africa Region
"Based on Quế Mai's family history and on the lives of the people around her in village and city life, The Mountains Sing is the story of four generations of the Trần family told from the point of view of the family matriarch and her granddaughter, a wise young girl who provides, in contrast to her grandmother's rich and moving story, the perspective of the generation that literally grew up with the war. But this is not simply another war story, or another example of so-called "Vietnam Lit" because this is a manuscript distinct in its story-telling techniques. This is a story about the power of hope and love in the face of the worst imaginable circumstances, framed by a beautifully clear arc and peopled by the fully developed characters of the Trần family who come alive and seem to sit right there beside us to tell their story. In The Mountains Sing, Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai has found a true and clear voice in English that is rich and compelling the way only those who come to English as a second language can sometimes manage."
—Bruce Weigl, Pulitzer Prize Finalist and author of the best-selling memoir The Circle of Hanh
"Although I am hesitant to use the word, this is an epic novel. Quế Mai has pulled off something rather extraordinary here – she is teaching her readers large swathes of Vietnamese history, while never losing a novelist's connection with the emotional reality of her characters. Since she is writing not simply about a war but one still in living memory, parts of this story are very painful and dark but she neither shies away from this nor alienates the reader from it. There were points when I wanted the horror to stop, but I never wanted to stop reading. The structure is clever, the writing often evocative, the characters convincing and very touching and the whole narrative deeply engaging. And this is a first novel! Impressive."
—Sara Maitland, author of Daughter of Jerusalem, winner of the Somerset Maugham Award
"The Mountains Sing is an enthralling family saga, set against the turmoil of war and a changing political climate. Inspired by real life events, Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai's story will thrill, shock and terrify the reader in equal measure. It will also inspire them with its life-affirming qualities of everyday heroism and survival against all the odds."
—Philip Caveney, author of the Sebastian Darke series & winner of the Scottish Children's Book Awards
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