Read advance reader review of Banyan Moon by Thao Thai

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Banyan Moon

A Novel

by Thao Thai

Banyan Moon by Thao Thai X
Banyan Moon by Thao Thai
  • Critics' Opinion:

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  • Published:
    Jun 2023, 336 pages


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  • Pamela K. (Churchville, NY)
    Banyan Moon a novel of secrets and saviors
    At times, when reading this novel, Banyan Moon by Thao Thai, you think the story is primarily focused on the setting, specifically Banyan House. The home originally acquired by Minh becomes a sanctuary for not only herself but also her daughter Huong and lastly her grand daughter Ann. Chapters alternate narration among the three generations of women, each one revealing more and more details about their pasts and the complexities of their relationships.
    I enjoyed reading this novel, first set in Vietnam and then in the swamplands of the Florida coast, largely due to the depth of the characters who were imperfect individuals while expansive in their interests and life choices.
    Though female characters largely dominate this novel, the development of male characters should not be minimized. Thao Thai reveals the significance of male relationships in the lives of Minh, Houng and Ann without stereotype or diminishment. The blend of a compelling setting, intensive plot development and endearing dynamic characters makes this novel well worth reading and discussing with others.
  • Beth P. (Amagansett, NY)
    Banyan Moon: A Must Read!
    Banyan Moon, by Thao Thai, is an elegant debut novel….it has the sophistication and style of an experienced author, not a first time storyteller.
    As a reader, I was transported to non Miami Beach Florida and felt as if I was living in the crumbling house with the three generations of Tran women. The story grabs you on page one and never let's go until the last word. Grandmother, mother, daughter: all have rich back stories, myriad memories and all strands are woven together with the author's skill with words.
    As I grew up while the anti Vietnam War movement was in full bloom, my knowledge of the country and it's people was not realistic or complete…..even after visiting Vietnam as an adult, it took this book to open my eyes to the lives and struggles of the immigrants as they transitioned to living in the Southern United States.
    Banyan Moon not only tells an interesting, interwoven, multigenerational tale, it will leave the reader wanting to meet and get to know the three protagonists, a sure sign of a " must read" novel.
  • Darlene B. (New Castle, PA)
    The Banyan Tree and a Kumquat
    "Not all stories have to be neat. Some can be messy and unfinished"

    'Banyan Moon' is a fantastic debut novel by Thao Thai. A multi-generational story which spans decades , this story is told by three strong, stubborn, fiercely loyal and loving Vietnamese- American women.. Minh, Huong and Ann.

    The novel begins with the death of Minh, the matriarch of the family. Minh's death sets off a crisis for the two remaining women - Huong and Ann- who return to the family homestead , the Banyan House, in the swampy wetlands of Florida. This family saga is told alternately by each of the three women and moves backward and forward through time. And what made this book even more enjoyable to me is that the reader is aware throughout the story of the women's secrets and family complexities... even when the women themselves were not always aware.

    I love complicated, messy family stories which play out over decades and this novel did not disappoint. The characters were wonderfully complex... strong and loyal and even infuriatingly secretive and frustrating. The Banyan House itself was also a compelling character in this story. The house, a huge, old Gothic structure, which seemed to be falling down was also a source of strength for the women who had found shelter within its walls.

    I loved everything about this novel and would highly recommend it to other readers!
  • Suzanne G. (Tucson, AZ)
    This is a great book! I felt it could go on forever and I wouldn't mind a bit. The story is so well written the interacting characters seemed to become real and ready to tell us more secrets. Thao Thai is an author to be followed; her novel is heartwarming and written with love and loyalty to her characters. Banyan Moon has been recommended to anyone who asks what recent book I've read.
  • Milda S. (Warwick, NY)
    Secrets Under the Banyan Moon
    Banyan Moon by Thao Thai is a spellbinding story of three women: grandmother, mother and daughter, who survived the Vietnam War. They presently live together in a run-down mansion in Florida under a Banyan tree in the Everglades. A house that Grandmother Minh purchased.

    Each of the women's lives have been shaped by the impact of historic, political and individual events and have underlying similarities. There is friction between the three and as we continue reading we begin to understand each women's point of view.

    The writing is magical in letting us into each women's thoughts as they seek to find their way. When Grandmother dies, Ann comes back and she and her mother try to reconnect. Ann finally shares her secret with her mother, changing the course of their lives.

    I recommend Banyan Moon by Thao Thai for its sensitive way of confronting multigenerational issues, the resilience of immigrants, survival instincts, and other universal themes. This is a book that will make you think about the wonder of life and all its possibilities.
  • Betty T. (Warner Robins, GA)
    Beautiful story of women coping
    I often find myself drawn to multi-generational family stories. "Banyan Moon" immediately drew me right into the lives of three generations of Vietnamese women – Minh, the grandmother; Huong, the daughter; and Ann, the granddaughter.

    The story opens with the death of Minh. Ann, born in the US and living in California, returns to her crumbling childhood home in Florida, a home with an old banyan tree growing at its side. Ann now must reconnect with her estranged mother. Unknown to her mother, Ann's seemingly perfect life in California is in question after she discovers she is pregnant.

    Minh's narratives are set in Vietnam and follow her life as a teenager during the Vietnam War and follow her as she flees to the US in search of a better life for her children. The love between Minh and Ann was beautiful, and my heart warmed at their interactions.

    "Banyan Moon" is an emotional character-driven story. The story is told in alternating perspectives of the three strong-willed women. It runs the gamut of emotions with its tale of losses, regrets, secrets, heartbreak, and, ultimately, love.

    The best part of the story for me was how Ann and Huong had to re-examine their past together and realize how much they do love each other.

    Thai uses beautiful imagery throughout the book, especially involving the banyan tree.

    If you are a fan of Nguyen Phan Que Mai, I recommend you give this book a try.
  • Theresa P. (Arkport, NY)
    Mothers and daughters
    What a powerfully written story. Three generations of women, and the powerful relationships they share—sometimes strong and sometimes less.
    The oldest starts the story in Vietnam, and then moves their future to Florida, where they grow through the years, in a home to the side of a banyan tree. The mother daughter relationships are so powerful, so real—sometimes so beautifully woven and other times so devastatingly fragile—that the book's power was a vital force. Love, racism, trust, abuse, strength, and weakness are threads that weave into the lives of these three women, in a compelling narrative.
    A first class read, meriting a second read as a book club choice. The title and camo colors on the cover almost made me pass this read by. Glad I didn't. It was worth every page! Thank you for allowing the advance read!

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