Each Country has its own history left behind for the next generation. But when the history is painful and laden with war and loss, the next generation is also living that pain and hurt.
Of all the historical fiction books that I have read, this was my first time about the Vietnamese War. This is a poignant tale of resilience and heart.
The Mountains Sing by Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai is a multi-generational tale of the Tran Family. The book is told in an alternative perspective in dual voices and spans around the half of 20th century. Tran Dieuu Lan, the matriarch and grandmother who narrates her childhood story. Next is Hương, the granddaughter, who is being raised by her grandma while her parents and uncles are out there in war which will not just tear their country in to two but also tears her family apart. Both the storylines are heart wrenching and riveting.
“That night and for the next many nights, to dry my tears, Grandma opened the door of her childhood to me. Her stories scooped me up and delivered me to the hilltop of Nghe An where I could fill my lungs with the fragrance of rice fields, sink my eyes into the Lam River, and become a green dot on the Truong Son mountain range. In her stories, I tasted the sweetness of sim berries on my tongue, felt grasshoppers kicking in my hands, and slept in a hammock under a sky woven by shimmering stars….”
Hương, finds comfort in her grandmother’s stories of surviving the war and the Land Reforms as she waits for her own mother and father to come back home. A well written story which is hard to digest as it will make you experience the war and the repercussion it has on the people. You will know what hunger is, hurt, pain, difficult choices, and hardship and amidst all you will see a line of hope that is giving them strength to hold on. 3 generations have been going through the same life of living in a torn land. The book is about resilience that the 3 women characters show. They have suffered, seen the worst, and yet come out strong to face a new day.
“My Grandmother used to tell me that when our ancestors die, they don’t just disappear, they continue to watch over us. And now, I feel her watching me as I light a match, setting fire to three sticks of incense.”
What is war? It’s nothing but the human cost and the loss that a family suffers. Be it on any side, one family is going to cry. The Mountain Sings is a beautiful rendering of the of Vietnam and its history.
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