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Read advance reader review of Banyan Moon by Thao Thai, page 5 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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  • Anne G. (Austin, TX)
    Banyan Moon by Thao Thai
    Ann has established herself as an accomplished illustrator with a loving boyfriend but things are falling apart when she learns her beloved grandmother Minh has died. She returns to her home in Florida and to her estranged mother Huong. The book tells the backstory of each of these women as Huong and Ann establish a tense truce to settle the affairs of Minh's life in the family home known as Banyon House.

    Present in the story are revelations from the past and family secrets that provide dimension for the women along with stories about life in Viet Nam that create a fascinating cultural authenticity. Strongly character driven the book felt a slight drag in the middle but I was never inclined to walk away. This felt like a book I wanted to settle into and read at a leisurely pace.
  • Rita H. (Centennial, CO)
    A Three Generation Struggle
    Three generations of women - a grandmother, her daughter and her granddaughter - tell this story in successive chapters. Minh, the grandmother is born in Vietnam and her story starts as the Vietnam War is drawing to an end. She is a determined young girl who manages to get to the United States with her young children, Huong and Phuoc. Her granddaughter, Ann, born in the U.S is very close to her grandmother emotionally. The story begins as Minh dies and Ann who is now a young adult illustrator living in Michigan with a rather wealthy boyfriend returns to the grandmother's house in Florida and reconnects with her estranged mother. Minh continues to contribute to the story as her chapters are written from an after-death perspective. Vietnamese traditions and beliefs are deftly woven into the story while each woman struggles with each other and with the men in their lives whether lover, husband, father, or brother. Long hidden secrets come to light, some rather shocking, and the characters must decide how to deal with them. I was disappointed in the first few pages of the book as the writing seemed rather simplistic but this improved within a few pages. I would not call the writing lyrical but it was absorbing and the decisions that each character had to make kept me interested. I think there are many aspects of the book that would provide good discussion points in a book club group and all ages of women could relate. I am not certain that men would find it absorbing. There is a renowned banyan tree in Vietnam which is a symbol of freedom and this thought together with viewing the amazing structure of the banyan tree itself led me to think more deeply about this book.
  • Elizabeth V. (Bellbrook, OH)
    Mothers and Daughters
    Banyan Moon is Thao Thai's debut novel and to some degree, it shows. The book has a compelling storyline but its execution is a little spotty. The overabundance of metaphors, similes and alliteration in the early chapters was jarring: "Her gait was purposeful but pinched. There was something dry and dangerous about her, like flint meeting flint." but that tendency evened out as the story progressed. I liked the way the characters evolved and grew in understanding of themselves and each other even after death. It was also annoying to reach the end of the book with the often alluded to mystery of how Minh bought Banyan House from an "old white woman" and why she felt compelled to keep all the woman's possessions intact, a storyline which seems central to understanding how Minh became the person she was, unresolved. I'm still wondering about that days after finishing the book. In sum, it was a good but not great debut effort. I do think this author will grow into her art and I will look forward to reading her next book.
  • Ilene M. (Longmont, CO)
    Good story about three generations of women
    A family with many secrets that come to life during the course of the story. I could identify with the stresses that exist between a mother and her daughter! The unfolding story, told from three different perspectives during several time periods, was worth the read. There are a few holes in the story which are never cleared up, but all in all, I enjoyed the book.
  • Nancy K. (Perrysburg, OH)
    Wanted to like it!
    I wanted to like this book but to be honest I was glad to turn the last page as it was hard to finish the book. Each chapter alternates between the 3 Tran family members- grandmother Minh, mother Hung and daughter Ann. This led to confusion. Grandma Minh is dead as the novel begins but I believe it would have been a much stronger book had it been her life story as she had a more interesting life.
    I can only give it a 3 rating.
  • Sonia F. (Freehold, NJ)
    The Stories We Become
    Banyan trees are popular to Asia. I always visualize stories being told, gossips and secrets that transpire under a Banyan tree. When I chose this book, I had a hunch I was in for a historical drama. It was more a family drama than historical and for that I was disappointed. I wanted to know more about Ming's life in Vietnam. The novel spanned the 1960's there and being as the war was happening, I needed more of that, more of the Vietnamese culture. I needed more historical context.

    I thought Ann was a bit flat. Hated the way she treated her mom.

    I give 3 stars based on the generational narrative; The matriarch Is dead and Ann is called to Florida from her Michigan home and rich privileged boyfriend. In Florida secrets are revealed and burdens are peeled off, all at the same time trying to rebuild a mother-daughter relationship without the matriarch who held them together. If you like multigenerational family sagas, you will like this. I did, but I also needed some historical context.

    "I come from a tribe of women who are ravaged and joyous, loud, raging, tied to our own convoluted histories. We are a tangle of branches, mud speckled and ever searching. " we claim squatters right in our tangled histories". My favorite quote but it did not live up it.
  • KarenS
    Banyan Moon
    Thank you to BookBrowse and Mariner/HarperCollins for this Advanced Reader's Edition.
    I'm sorry to say but this book was not as interesting as I thought it would be. I was hoping for something more steeped in Vietnamese culture and history. But what I got was a story of a dysfunctional family that could have been from anywhere, from any culture. I love stories that take place in other countries, I'm particularly interested right now in Vietnam. I will be traveling there soon. I thought this would be a good book to learn more about the war from the point of view of Minh.

    Maybe I missed something, but I never really knew why Minh settled in Florida and why she purchased the Banyan House.

    Goodreads gives this book 4.45 stars, which is incredibly high. It will be interesting to see the rating once the book is published. The writing was good, some very beautiful sentences. I just am not that excited to recommend to other readers.

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