Book Reviews


Autumn 2008

book title

The Eaves of Heaven
by Andrew X. Pham

The story of Vietnam, its cycles of war and dismemberment, has been exhaustively chronicled by historians and memoirists, novelists and playwrights, poets and film makers, Americans and Vietnamese. Eaves of Heaven is, however, something completely original. Written in the restrained yet powerful voice of his own father, Andrew Pham weaves a brilliant tapestry of vignettes, which skip back and forth across time in a shuffled chronology, telling the story of his father, his family dynasty, and his country.

Reviewed by Abby Pollack

book title

Beijing Coma
by Ma Jian

For author Ma Jian, the history of modern Beijing really begins with the dark days of the Tiananmen Square massacre, which has its anniversary in June. Exiled writer Jian, whose other well-known works include The Noodlemaker and Red Dust, begins his story with narrator Dai Wei. Dai Wei, a science student at Beijing University, is shot in the head during the fateful crackdown and falls into a coma for ten years. It is from this comatose perspective that the reader is carried through the events leading up to the massacre as well as through the ensuing, dramatic changes made in Beijing in the decade following.

Reviewed by Sally Ito

book titleTree of Smoke
by Denis Johnson

Opening in 1963, and taking us year by year through America’s engagement with Southeast Asia until 1970, Tree of Smoke sets out to clarify, if such a thing is possible, the morass of the Vietnam War. The novel succeeds brilliantly, and is a work of devastating, tragic, artistic vision. In Denis Johnson’s Vietnam, the enemy is everywhere and deep within, allegiances are knotted to a stranglehold, and the entire region is a "fallen world" from which no redemption, besides those offered by myth, is possible.

Reviewed by Madeleine Thien

book titleThe Gift of Rain
by Tan Twan Eng

In the Tao Te Ching, Lau Tzu extols the virtue of water and its willingness to dwell in low places that people disdain. Philip, the narrator of Tan Twen Eng’s novel, is born with this same virtue. His fluidity is his success, though it is also the cause of deep suffering in the lives of his family and community. As the fortuneteller warned him, "rain also brings the flood." This is Eng’s ambitious first novel, addressing duty, control and the complicated nature of fate on the painful backdrop of World War II.

Reviewed by Kristianne Huntsberger

book titleBringing Tony Home
by Tissa Abeysekara

A friend of mine recommended this book because she knew of my affinity for Proust. Tissa Abeysekara shares that poetic digression into nostalgia, the lingering description of a taste or a sound, and the endearing affection for mother. The attention to sensation is similar, even though we follow Abeysekara’s narrator through late twentieth-century Sri Lanka, not turn-of-the-century France, and the flavor that remains is not a saturated madeleine but the metallic taste of water tinged with sardines.

Reviewed by Kristianne Huntsberger

Previous Book Reviews

Review Date
Alexie, Sherman Flight Oct 07
Arana, Marie Cellophane June 07
Aslam, Nadeem Maps for Lost Lovers June 05
Bajwa, Rupa The Sari Shop July 04
Bernstein, Gail Lee Isami’s House March 06
Berger, David The Time in Between Jan 06
Bissell, Tom The Father of All Things: A Marine, His Son, and the Legacy of Vietnam March 08
Carey, Peter My Life as a Fake May 04
Carey, Peter Theft: A Love Story Sept 06
Carey, Peter Wrong About Japan Jan 05
Clendinnen, Inga Dancing with Strangers March 04
Connelly, Karen The Lizard Cage March 06
Dalby, Liza East Wind Melts the Ice: A Memoir through the Seasons March 08
Dalrymple, William The Last Mughal: The Fall of a Dynasty: Delhi 1857 June 07
Desai, Anita The Zigzag Way Jan 05
Desai, Kiran The Inheritance of Loss March 07
Divakaruni, Chitra Banerjee Queen of Dreams Sept 04
Flannery, Tim Chasing Kangaroos Oct 07
Friedman, Abigail The Haiku Apprentice March 07
Ghosh, Amitav The Hungry Tide March 06
Ghosh, Amitav Incendiary Circumstances: A Chronicle of Our Times June 07
Guha, Ramachandra India After Gandhi: The History of the World’s Largest Democracy March 08
Hayes, Ernestine Blonde indian: An Alaska Native Memoir March 07
Hazzard, Shirley The Great Fire May 04
Hirasuna, Delphine The Art of Gaman: Arts and Crafts from the Japanese American Internment Camps 1942-1946 Dec 06
Houston, James D. Bird of Another Heaven June 07
Jen, Gish The Love Wife Sept 04
Jin, Ha War Trash Nov 04
Jones, Lloyd Mister Pip March 08
Lam, Andrew Perfume Dreams Dec 06
Lam, Thi My Da Green Rice Sept 06
Li, Yiyun A Thousand Years of Good Prayers March 06
Lum-McCunn The God of Luck Oct 07
Macmillan, Margaret Nixon and Mao June 07
Ma, Jian Stick Out Your Tongue June 07
Malouf, David The Complete Stories March 08
Mann, Susan The Talented Women of the Zhang Family March 08
Mehta, Suketu Maximum City: Bombay Lost and Found June 05
Mones, Nicole The Last Chinese Chef March 08
Mortenson, Greg and David Oliver Relin Three Cups of Tea March 07
Muller, Karin Japanland: A Year in Search of Wa Dec 06
Murakami, Haruki Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman Dec 06
O’Reilly, James et al. The Best Travelers’ Tales 2004 July 04
Oyama, Shiro A Man with No Talents March 06
Padel, Ruth Tigers in Red Weather: A Quest for the Last Wild Tigers March 07
Pavan, Aldo The Ganges: Along Sacred Waters Sept 06
Pomfret, John Chinese Lessons: An American, His Classmates, and the Story of the New China March 07
Richie, Donald Travels in the East Oct 07
Row, Jess The Train to Lo Wu March 06
See, Lisa Peony in Love Oct 07
See, Lisa Snow Flower and the Secret Fan Sept 05
Sen, Amartya The Argumentative Indian: Writings on Indian History, Culture and Identity Dec 06
Shan, Sa The Girl Who Played Go March 04
Tan, Amy Saving Fish from Drowning Dec 06
Tearn, Roma Mosquito March 08
Thien, Madeleine Certainty March 07
Tsukiyama, Gail Street of a Thousand Blossoms Dec 07
Turk, John In the Wake of the Jomon Dec 06
U, Sam Oeur Crossing Three Wildernesses March 06
Umrigar, Thrity The Space Between Us June 07
Ung, Luong Lucky Child Sept 06
Urrea, Luis  Alberto The Hummingbird’s Daughter March 06
Vallient, John The Golden Spruce March 06
Vitebsky, Pierce The Reindeer People March 06
Wakatsuki-Houston, Jeanne The Legend of Firehorse Woman Nov 04
Wen, Zhu I Love Dollars March 08
Whitty, Julia The Fragile Edge: Diving and Other Adventures in the South Pacific March 08
Winchester, Simon A Crack in the Edge of the World Sept 06
Winton, Tim The Turning Jan 06
Yamanaka, Lois-Ann Behold the Many March 07
Yan, Geling The Banquet Bug Sept 06
Yoshimoto, Banana Hardboiled and Hard Luck Sept 05