At the peak of the war in Vietnam, a baby girl is born along the Song Ma River on the night of the full moon. This is Rabbit, who will journey away from her destroyed village with a makeshift family thrown together by war. Here is a Vietnam we ve never encountered before: through Rabbit s inexplicable but radiant intuition, we are privy to an intimate version of history, from the days of French Indochina and the World War II rubber plantations through the chaos of postwar reunification. With its use of magical realism Rabbit s ability to hear the dead the novel reconstructs a turbulent historical period through a painterly human lens. This is the moving story of one woman s struggle to unearth the true history of Vietnam while simultaneously carving out a place for herself within it."
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2014-12-15
- Reviewer: Staff
In Vietnam in 1975, a mother dies giving birth to a girl named Rabbit, for the rabbit visible in the full moon that night. In this lyrical and mysterious debut novel, jungle dirt and violence are juxtaposed with miracles and magic throughout Rabbit’s unlikely life. “Shortly after Rabbit’s birth, the Americans began withdrawing from the country... the war dragged on, the rice harvests left rotting in the paddies or never planted in the first place.” Barry, a prolific poet, writes with stunning language, which carries the novel and elevates moments of heartbreak, despair, and perseverance. However, the story line relies on supernatural marvels that can be difficult to buy into. For instance, after Rabbit’s mother dies, Rabbit is nursed by a young woman and fellow refugee named Qui, who is barely out of adolescence and likely a virgin, but whose body produces the milk with which to feed the baby. When Rabbit’s grandmother dies, several years later, Rabbit absorbs all of the grandmother’s memories and visions, through a kind of pipeline of knowledge. The metaphor is powerful but feels forced. While each individual vignette is mesmerizing, the leaps in logic and chronology feel jarring, and one wonders if the story would not have benefitted from a more straightforward approach. (Feb.)