Excerpt from The Unwanted by Kien Nguyen, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reviews |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

The Unwanted

by Kien Nguyen

The Unwanted by Kien Nguyen X
The Unwanted by Kien Nguyen
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • First Published:
    Mar 2001, 352 pages
    Paperback:
    Apr 2002, 368 pages

    Genres

  • Rate this book


Buy This Book

About this Book

Print Excerpt

1972
Chapter One
Nhatrang, May 12, 1972, 7 P.M.

I remember that night quite well. It is my first memory, and the happiest one from my childhood.

The familiar smell of pig roasting on a spit wafted from the kitchen. My mother made cheery noises as she ran from one hallway to the next, giving orders to the help with a hint of pompous confidence. The moist summer air evaporated into a transparent mist all around me due to the kind of heat found only in Nhatrang and only in May. And what I remember most of all is the sense of festivity all around me as the last rays of sunlight disappeared into the ocean, just a few hundred feet away from my window. It was my fifth birthday.

My childhood home, in order to accommodate my mother's passion for living near beautiful beaches, was situated by the water, with the waves murmuring at the foot of the house. The mansion was comprised of three stories and over twenty-four rooms, including at least eight bedrooms. All were furnished with expensive Western furniture thrown together by my mother's own design. And both to give the house personality and to honor my grand-father's last name, Mother named it Nguyen Mansion. From the numerous stories I was told growing up, mostly by my grandparents, I came to understand that my mother built the house during her pregnancy with me, motivated by the idea of having her first baby in her own home. Mother painted the outside of the house the color of eggshells, and, much to her consternation, I always thought the house was just a simple white color that had aged poorly with time. From the main entrance of the house to the front gate lay a large reddish marble pathway that encircled the garden, which housed a kidney-shaped pool. Our gardener, Mr. Tran, had been hired through an agency, and his job consisted mainly of planting and maintaining the many exotic species of flowers around the front part of the house. My mother, in an effort to shield the inside beauty from the outside world, constructed two enormous iron gates, as well as a high barbed-wire fence covered with thick vines, to obscure all within their boundaries. In the old days, I used to play with my toys in the garden while the children playing on the other side of the gate watched me with fascination. According to my mother, those children were either too dirty, or I was too clean, for my association with them. In Vietnam, rich children like myself wore sandals to protect their feet from the dirt and the heat, while poor children like the ones from the other side of the wall ran around barefoot.

That afternoon, before the celebration, much of the activity was centered in the kitchen. I was flying through the crowded rooms with my arms out like an airplane and making buzzing sounds, bumping into people's legs to simulate a crash. My brother and I had made up this clever plan to get treats from the help. Unfortunately, everyone seemed too busy to notice me. In the middle of the main kitchen a group of chefs stood around an enormous table, decorating a gigantic white cake with bunches of red roses, brown vines, and green leaves made from heavy whipped cream and food coloring. On the other side of the room, barely visible in the dark smoke, live fowls awaited their turn to be slaughtered; their frightened cackles rose over the impatient sizzling of the pork. A few steps away, a group of my mother's maids hovered over the busy stove preparing the main courses. One of the women turned on the ceiling fan as her friend strained cooked noodles over the drain. The fog from the boiling water swept up from the pot, adding to the heat in the room. Looking for a new victim for my airplane game, I spotted a young caterer's apprentice. He was about ten years old and of diminutive size, with dark circles under his eyes. Running through the kitchen with a big bowl of whipped cream, he crashed into me. I knew how fearful our servants were when it came to my mother's wrath. While the boy was making sure I was not injured, I reached into his bowl for a handful of cream. Before he could recover from his shock, I laughed and ran off, lapping the sweetness from my hand.

Copyright © 2001 by Nguyen-Andrews, LLC

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $12 for 3 months or $39 for a year.
  • More about membership!

Join BookBrowse

Become a Member and discover books that entertain, engage & enlighten.

Find out more


Today's Top Picks

  • Book Jacket: The Code Breaker
    The Code Breaker
    by Walter Isaacson
    What makes humans human? It's a mystery that has inspired philosophers and driven scientific ...
  • Book Jacket: Genesis
    Genesis
    by Guido Tonelli
    Popular science books represent an important niche in non-fiction. They build a bridge between ...
  • Book Jacket: Buses Are a Comin'
    Buses Are a Comin'
    by Charles Person, Richard Rooker
    Charles Person was just 18 years old in 1961 when he became the youngest of the first wave of '...
  • Book Jacket: Firekeeper's Daughter
    Firekeeper's Daughter
    by Angeline Boulley
    Angeline Boulley's young adult novel Firekeeper's Daughter follows 18-year-old Daunis — ...

Book Club Discussion
Book Jacket
The Girl in His Shadow
by Audrey Blake
The story of one woman who believed in scientific medicine before the world believed in her.

Readers Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    Crossing the River
    by Carol Smith

    A powerful exploration of grief that combines memoir, reportage, and lessons in how to heal.

  • Book Jacket

    Ariadne
    by Jennifer Saint

    A mesmerizing debut novel about Ariadne, Princess of Crete for fans of Madeline Miller's Circe.

Who Said...

The secret of freedom lies in educating people, whereas the secret of tyranny is in keeping them ignorant

Click Here to find out who said this, as well as discovering other famous literary quotes!

Wordplay

Solve this clue:

A S I T closet

and be entered to win..

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends the best in contemporary fiction and nonfiction—books that not only engage and entertain but also deepen our understanding of ourselves and the world around us.