Things We Lost To The Water by Eric Nguyen
Rating: 3.5/5 Stars
When Huong arrives in New Orleans with her two young sons, she is jobless, homeless, and worried about her husband, Cong, who remains in Vietnam. As she and her boys begin to settle in to life in America, she continues to send letters and tapes back to Cong, hopeful that they will be reunited and her children will grow up with a father.
But with time, Huong realizes she will never see her husband again. While she copes with this loss, her sons, Tuan and Binh grow up in their absent father’s shadow, haunted by a man and a country trapped in their memory and imagination. As they push forward, the three adapt to life in America in different ways: Huong takes up with a Vietnamese car salesman who is also new in town; Tuan tries to connect with his heritage by joining a local Vietnamese gang; and Binh, now going by Ben, embraces his adopted homeland and his burgeoning sexuality. Their search for identity–as individuals and as a family–threatens to tear them apart. But then disaster strikes the city they now call home, and they must find a new way to come together and honor the ties that bind them.
I’ll keep this spoiler-free for y’all. 🙂 I got this book in my BOTM box. 🙂
Reading this book I didn’t really get the feeling it was gonna be a five-star read, but I still thought I would like it. I did enjoy this book and I’m definitely glad to have picked it up. This was a debut novel and I think the author is only going to get better over time. 🙂
I kind of struggled with this rating. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to give this book three or four stars. I settled on three and a half as y’all can see. My biggest issue with this novel is that it wasn’t long enough. It was right under 300 pages and honestly I feel like it could have gone on more. It could have gone into so much more depth and I definitely wished it did.
As you follow around Huong and her two sons you get to watch how life in America changes her, Huong, and how growing up in America impacts her sons. It’s actually pretty heartbreaking to read. Here you have a mother who wants the best for her kids and she tries her best to provide it for them, but sometimes things just don’t go as planned. Especially when your kids choose their own path. It can be hard for a parent to watch a child choose a path that may not be as “successful”. Overall, she just wants her kids to be happy though. It makes me wish we kind of got more time with her. I would have loved to have dug deeper into her mind. Actually, we probably could have dug a little deeper into all of their minds.
So, the ending of this book is rushed and I think that’s the biggest complaint about this book. I however, kind of liked the rushed ending. It makes me feel like it comes full circle. I say that because in the beginning when they flee their home it’s chaotic and stressful. It’s anyone’s worst nightmare, to have to flee the place they call home. The fear, the pain, the exhaustion, I think the ending shows those same things. She moves to a place that’s supposed to have brought a better life and then once again you’re thrown into these same feelings of fear, pain, worry, etc..
Something I wasn’t too fond of was that the writing didn’t always flow so well. The author would be talking about the character and what was happening and then the author fast-forwards in the next paragraph. I just felt it could be kind of rushed. I would have prefered it all to have been longer and explained in more depth. Maybe I feel that way because this is such a deep topic for a novel and I would have loved to absorbed all of it, all of the characters and their emotions, feelings, hardships, etc. Sometimes the writing would be talking about one thing and then it felt like the author just said “okay, moving on! We’re done with that.” and you just had to skip ahead. That’s how it felt to me anyway.
I enjoyed the characters. I loved them and my heart hurt for them and all the things they went through. It was sad to watch things unfold and see how what was supposed to be a beautiful new life was actually chaotic and full of struggle.
I think this book definitely has a lot of good messages and I think it has a lot of relatable content in it. Even though it wasn’t a new favorite or a five-star read for me, I definitely recommend this book. It’s a diverse novel with some good characterization as well as relatable content. I think it’s a pretty heartbreaking read, but it never made me cry. So, it’s more of a heartache rather than break I guess. Overall I think it’s worth the read.
I feel like if maybe this book dug deeper into the characters and was longer then it would have easily been a five-star read for me. I definitely wish I was able to connect to the characters more. There are some other things I wish I could talk about, but I don’t want to spoil anything haha.
Anyway, i hope y’all like this review even if it is a bit of a mess. 🙂 Have a blessed day full of reading!