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Read advance reader review of Banyan Moon by Thao Thai, page 3 of 5

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Banyan Moon

A Novel

by Thao Thai

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

    Readers' Opinion:

  • First Published:
    Jun 2023, 336 pages

    Paperback:
    Jun 4, 2024, 336 pages

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There are currently 35 member reviews
for Banyan Moon
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  • Patricia C. (Naples, FL)
    A superb debut novel
    Thao Thai has written a beautiful novel about three bright and beautiful women with Vietnamese background. Two were born in Vietnam and lived through the war years and the one is born in America of Vietnamese parents. Grandmother, mother and daughter are all narrators, thus giving the reader the opportunity to understand and appreciate each woman's point of view. The setting is in Viet Nam and Florida's southwest coast. A very large crumbling house, the Banyon House, surrounded by land also has a major role in this novel.

    Motherhood in all its complexities is a major theme of this book. I highly recommend it. I know my book club will be reading it when it is published.
  • Elizabeth T. (Bradenton, FL)
    Banyan Moon
    In the opening Chapter of Banyan Moon, Thao Thai's outstanding debut novel, there is a scene that I kept coming back to again and again as I read the novel. The family, grandmother Minh, daughter Hu'o'ng and granddaughter Ann have taken a rare trip to the beach. Ann rests in the sand while her mother French braids her hair into "impossible knots" takes it apart and does it again and again. Like the braid the lives of these women are tangled into impossible knots twisted by resentments, secrets love and loyalty.

    The story is told from alternating points of view and covers a tumultuous family history beginning in 1960's era Vietnam and traveling through the 1990's to the present day. At the center of the story sits Banyan house, a crumbling Gothic mansion that sits on the Gulf Coast of Florida. Its dilapidated rooms are a repository of grief and longing reflecting back the families struggles and yearnings. It's the perfect setting for this family saga.

    I thoroughly enjoyed this novel. Thankfully the author did not tie the ending up in a bright shiny bow, for that would not fit these characters. Rather we are left with hope as the characters look to the future. This novel is certainly one that I will recommend to friends and consider for my Book Club selection.
  • Karen S. (Allston, MA)
    Easy to forgive the flaws in these basically good women, trying their best
    First the book intrigued me, then it didn't. Then it pulled me back in and held my attention until the end. The story of three women covers mothers and daughters, parenting, family lies, family tensions—common themes in many family-based stories. I found the overlay of "inheritance" -- personal traits, cultural stories, and actual material inheritance-- was an effective vehicle for telling the stories of these women. Spanning the Vietnam War era until present time in Vietnam and the United States, the range of this book is ambitions, and Thai manages it smoothly.
    I can see this book appealing to many people.
  • Victoria S. (Great Falls, VA)
    Tangled histories, lovingly explored
    This is a remarkable debut, beautifully written and heart achingly rendered. I enjoy family stories—the dynamic between mothers and daughters, the tension that lies at the fringes of even the most loving relationships—and this did not disappoint. The characters were fully fleshed in all of their frustrating and loving glory with the house at the center as a character in itself. The author also did a splendid job writing multiple timelines and weaving them into the narrative. So often different time periods can feel jarring as we settle into one and then are hurled into another, but in this novel they flowed seamlessly.

    That said, while I enjoyed this novel and appreciated how the story unfolded, I almost abandoned it. The writing felt detached, a bit too much MFA polish perhaps, and it wasn't until almost a third in that I became invested. From there, the writing and story found their footing as did I. All in all, a fine debut and I look forward to seeing what this author writes next.
  • Giovanna I. (Harrison, NY)
    Myth Meets Reality
    Banyan Moon blends Magic Realism and folk tales with a contemporary setting linking three generations of Tran women to Banyan House, located by the Gulf of Mexico in Florida. Among the main characters are Ann, the youngest Tran member, Huong, Ann's mother, and Minh, the matriarch of the family. Each woman has fallen for the wrong person and found comfort in a dilapidated Southern Gothic mansion that becomes a character in its own right. The themes of motherhood, love, loss, and gratitude are featured throughout the novel as we watch the three women deal with heartache and adversity. All have in common the love of the Banyan moon, a symbol of beauty and purity which lightens their load. Although the novel proceeds slowly, it keeps the reader engaged as it switches among the three storylines. The descriptions of Vietnamese food and Hindu customs were among my favorite parts and allowed me to appreciate the richness of time-honored traditions.
  • Patricia S. (Chicago, IL)
    Vietnamese Southern Gothic
    My initial impression--Vietnamese immigrants in a spooky old mansion? With a banyan tree in the yard? And a ghost? While I still maintain this impression, Thao Thai's book is so much more. Successive generations of Vietnamese women of the Tran family create their lives and themselves always remembering the violence that shadows their lives. Enduring their lives as single mothers, they realize that they can be more, no longer trying to fill a social image of what they should be , but empowering themselves—swimming lessons, new men in their lives. Reinventing themselves in a new country with new rules, and always trying to hold on to the idea that they are family, even if they don't like each other much. When one of them inherits the falling down, mildew-smelling house, called the Banyan house these emotions emerge. While exploring the old house of many rooms, secrets are discovered, some overturning a lifetime of belief. As the granddaughter returns to the family in Florida, each woman must deal with the idea of motherhood that her mother had, and how to make it better for her, how to be the mother they all wished they had.
  • Mitzi K. (Cumming, GA)
    Mesmerizing, Exquisite Prose
    Banyan Moon by Thao Thai is a mesmerizing and poignant first novel that immerses readers in the lives of three generations of Vietnamese American women who are navigating the profound loss of their matriarch. Within the pages of this book, these women confront the weight of life's challenges, expectations, and situations, all while unearthing long-buried secrets.

    I loved the exquisite prose and the compelling development of the characters, making it a true joy to read. I eagerly anticipate Thao Thai's future literary work, curious to discover what this talented author will deliver next!

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