Bitter in the Mouth: Book summary and reviews of Bitter in the Mouth by Monique Truong

Bitter in the Mouth

A Novel

by Monique Truong

Bitter in the Mouth
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  • Published in USA  Aug 2010
    304 pages
    Genre: Novels

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Book Summary

Growing up in the small town of Boiling Springs, North Carolina, in the 70's and 80's, Linda believes that she is profoundly different from everyone else, including the members of her own family. "What I know about you, little girl, would break you in two" are the cruel, mysterious last words that Linda's grandmother ever says to her.

Now in her thirties, Linda looks back at her past when she navigated her way through life with the help of her great-uncle Harper, who loves her and loves to dance, and her best friend Kelly, with whom Linda exchanges almost daily letters. The truth about my family was that we disappointed one another. When I heard the word "disappoint," I tasted toast, slightly burnt.

For as long as she can remember, Linda has experienced a secret sense—she can "taste" words, which have the power to disrupt, dismay, or delight. She falls for names and what they evoke: Canned peaches. Dill. Orange sherbet. Parsnip (to her great regret). But with crushes comes awareness. As with all bodies, Linda's is a mystery to her, in this and in other ways. Even as Linda makes her way north to Yale and New York City, she still does not know the truth about her past.
 
Then, when a personal tragedy compels Linda to return to Boiling Springs, she gets to know a mother she never knew and uncovers a startling story of a life, a family. Revelation is when God tells us the truth. Confession is when we tell it to him.

This astonishing novel questions many assumptions—about what it means to be a family and to be a friend, to be foreign and to be familiar, to be connected and to be disconnected—from others and from the past, our bodies, our histories, and ourselves.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"Starred Review. [Truong's] mesmerizing prose beautifully captures Linda's taste-saturated world, and her portrait of a broken family's secretive pockets and genuine moments of connection is affecting." - Publishers Weekly

"Truong’s engaging writing and complex character development almost overcome the deficiencies of this novel, but it is unlikely to touch readers as her debut novel (The Book of Salt) did." - Library Journal

"Starred Review. Truong is a gifted storyteller, and in this quietly powerful novel she has created a compelling and unique character." - Booklist

"Truong remains a stunning wordsmith and a whiz at intellectual showmanship, but Linda's story tastes of artificial plot manipulation." - Kirkus

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Author Information

Monique Truong Author Biography

Monique Truong s a Vietnamese American writer. She graduated from Yale University and the Columbia University School of Law, going on to specialize in intellectual property.

Truong coedited the anthology Watermark: Vietnamese American Poetry and Prose, and her essay Welcome to America was featured on National Public Radio. Granting her an award of excellence, the Vietnamese American Studies Center at San Francisco State University called her "a pioneer in the field, as an academic, an advocate, and an artist." She was awarded a prestigious Lannan Foundation writing residency in 2001.

Her other works are Bitter in the Mouth (2010) and The Book of Salt (2003). Bitter in the Mouth received the Rosenthal Family Foundation Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters and was named a 25...

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