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An exquisite and intense journey through the labyrinths of Hanoi, Leningrad, and Paris—through dreams, memory, and loss
An abandoned package is discovered in the Paris Metro: the subway workers suspect it’s a terrorist bomb. A Vietnamese woman sitting nearby, her son asleep on her shoulder, waits and begins to reflect on her life, from her constrained childhood in communist Hanoi, to a long period of study in Leningrad during the Gorbachev period, and finally to the Parisian suburbs where she now teaches English. Through everything runs her passion for Thuy, the father of her son, a writer who lives in Saigon’s Chinatown, and who, with the shadow of the China-Vietnam border war falling darkly between them, she has not seen for eleven years.
Through her breathless, vertiginous, and deeply moving monologue from beside the subway tracks, the narrator attempts to once and for all face the past and exorcize the passion that haunts her.
Thu n, in her English-language debut, delivers a powerful examination of a woman's remembering and forgetting. In 2004, an unnamed Vietnamese woman and her son are stuck on a train in Paris while the police investigate an abandoned duffel bag, which they assume contains a bomb. With her son asleep, the woman attempts to understand "the mystery to end all mysteries": why her husband, Th \ny, left her almost 12 years earlier. In a gripping monologue, the woman recalls her childhood in Communist H N \ni with her Sinophobic parents who hated Th y for being half-Chinese; her five years spent studying English in Soviet Russia; and her move to Paris, where she abandoned her postgraduate degree and began teaching English. Comprised of a single, breathless paragraph interrupted only by the occasional excerpt from I'm Yellow, her novel in progress about a man who leaves his family, Thu n's tightly coiled narrative paints a portrait of a woman desperately trying to make sense of her past ("You must forget in order to live," she claims). As the woman's thoughts spin round and round, Thu n draws the reader ever closer to the question at the core of the novel: Is it actually possible to forget in order to live? This heralds a remarkable new voice.