Sunday, September 8, 2019

On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous; Ocean Vuong

AUTHOR:  Ocean Vuong
PUBLISHER: Penguin Audio
PUB. YEAR: 2019
SETTING: Connecticut
FORMAT:  audio (7+ hours)
RATING - 4.5/5

Did you ever read a book that was beautifully written but an emotionally draining experience?  This was the case with this book.  The author was previously known for his award poetry (awarded the Elliot prize). This is his debut novel and it is partly autobiographical.

The narrator, nicknamed "Little-Dog" was born in Saigon to a Vietnamese mother; his father was an American. His single mother brought him to the US (Hartford, CT) as a toddler; she was abusive, volatile and possibly schizophrenic. 

The story is written like a letter by the 20-something narrator to his mother who cannot read. It helps the reader to understand Little Dog's past as well as what his mother has endured. We learn of his life as a bullied child, mostly based on racism. He even tells about his early homosexual experiences when he falls for Trevor, the son on a tobacco farm owner, that he met while working on the farm as a teen.

As beautiful as is the writing, it's a very painful, heart-tugging story as well. This book is not for everyone especially because of the physical abuse as well as explicit sexual material. Some of the images of his painful childhood and search for love and acceptance will not be easily forgotten.

The audio is read by the author. I thought he did a great job but, his voice very depressing to match the tone of the novel. It took me a long time (2+ weeks) to finish this one; it was almost like a bad accident where you just couldn't walk away. READER BEWARE: Possible trigger warnings


  1. Thanks for the warnings. Sounds as if one has to be in a receptive mood for this b book.

  2. I have this one on hold at the library and expect to receive it by the end of the month - wasn't sure what to expect, so thanks for the review. Not sure I'm in the mood for this one right now.

  3. I have the audio of this - it sounds like it'll be a tough listen.

  4. I've been curious about this one and glad to hear that it is a powerful story.

  5. I took a quick look through the first part of the book and it seemed there was a lot of remembrances from the war and the horrific consequences and effects on the people in the novel.

  6. It sounds good but we don't do sad very well.

  7. Diane, thanks for your honest review of this book. It sounds very affecting.

  8. Thanks for the warnings, this is a pass for me.

  9. I might venture into this one someday. Thanks for your review.

  10. It sounds quite rough and sad / wonder if I could handle the audio. We'll see.

  11. Excellent book review. I just finished reading it as well and loved it. I sure hope to post about it on my personal blog soon.


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