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The Mountains Sing

by Nguyen Phan Que Mai

The Mountains Sing by Nguyen Phan Que Mai X
The Mountains Sing by Nguyen Phan Que Mai
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  • First Published:
    Mar 2020, 352 pages
    Mar 16, 2021, 368 pages


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Unforgettable characters and lyrical prose!
I was overcome with emotion at how profoundly moving I found The Mountains Sing by Nguyen Phan Que Mai. Lyrical prose filled with images that will forever change how I view lives so vastly different than my own. I always viewed the tragedy of the Vietnam war through the lens of American losses...until now. The compelling multi-generational story of the Tran family is beautifully written with two unforgettable heroines, Huong Tran and her grandmother Died Lan and spans from 1920-1970's. I highly recommend what has turned out to be my favorite read in 2020. Actually, I am getting ready to reread so I can facilitate this novel in our Zoom book club in November.
Mary B. (St Paul, MN)

The Mountains Sing
Beautifully written, but heart wrenching saga of a Vietnamese family through several generations. The story touches on human's inhumanity to others, but also the enduring hope and resiliency of family and friends. Nguy?n Phan's story is about the history of the Vietnamese people and their struggles through very turbulent times. Nguy?n Phan's weaves the story through several people and periods of time and it flows beautifully. I highly recommend the book!
M Kassapa

The Vietnam War in Full View
This gorgeously written novel explores four generations of a Vietnamese family impacted by the Vietnam War. Mai focuses on all aspects of policy as well as repercussions of this war: Land Reform, the war, the destruction, death, anger, grief, loss of life and limb, loss of confidence and sanity. We all also are invited to experience the strength of family, the generosity, kindness, resilience, and forgiveness. The book is a kaleidoscope of the earthquake that is war, touching on the intense pain, poverty, and finding personal redemption in the recognition of the toll that survival sometimes costs.
Liz D. (East Falmouth, MA)

The Mountains Sing
Nguyen Phan Que Mai's book The Mountains Sing is a story that sings. The story of the Tran family who live in the turbulent era of change in North Viet Nam between the 1940s to present day. Told by Tran Dieu Lan to her granddaughter Huong the story spans the years beginning with the Great Hunger, a time of severe famine, the Communist Land Reform, where the family lost their land holdings, to the Viet Nam War and its aftermath. Through all this strife Tran Dieu Lan fights valorously to be the rock keeping her family together.

The story was an eyeopener for me never having heard the Viet Nam story from the point of view of the North Vietnamese. They struggled heroically to keep their way of life and their country whole in the face of incredibly bad odds forced on them by foreign powers.

The Tran family's courage and resilience is breathtaking and makes one appreciate the freedoms we so much for granted. The book is one I will happily read again for the storytelling, the language and the unforgettable characters. Wonderful Book!
Travel Books and Movies

Prepare Yourself for this Must Read
I have spent time in Vietnam (both North and South). I knew Vietnam had a long storied past. I knew there were challenges in Vietnam's history I hadn't been taught in school. I knew the Vietnamese were strong people.

So, I thought I was ready for this book...I wasn't.

The Mountains Sing is a heart-wrenching novel tracing a portion of Vietnam's history through the stories of Dieu Lan, her granddaughter, Huong (called Guava), and their families. (Fortunately, there's a family tree in the front to help track family members as you read.)

Despite the heavy topics, it's a fast read--the characters are well-developed and you care about their stories. (I finished the book in two sittings--mostly because I needed to take a mental break.)

Vietnam's history comes to life through the personal stories--stories of struggle through the Great Hunger, Land Reform, what Westerners know as the Vietnam War, and other moments in Vietnam's past. Scenery--small villages, mountains, jungles, and big cities--are easily envisioned through the descriptions. And cultural lessons are sprinkled throughout--proverbs, superstitions, meanings of Vietnamese words and names.

I finished this book a few days ago and haven't quite been able to let it go. The Mountains Sing is a meaningful piece of historical fiction--one that is meant to be shared, discussed, and learned from.
Cindy B. (Waukee, IA)

The Mountains Sing
The reader embarks on a journey through 70 years of Vietnam's turbulent political history. The story is about four generations of the Tran family and told through the eyes of a grandmother and her granddaughter. The reader follows the Tran family through times of wealth, poverty, famine, political unrest and war. The words are beautifully written with the promise of hope for the future, the strength of family ties and the power of forgiveness guiding the story. A great book for anyone who enjoys historical fiction, would like to learn more about Vietnam or is in a book club!
Ora J. (Anacortes, WA)

The Mountains Sing
With power and poetry, Nguyen Phan Que Mai guided me onto lands and into cultures I had never before experienced. Her power was wielded by an excellent use of English, her second language. Poetry flowed from her Grandmother's songs and stories. The lives of three generations, revealed through the voices of grandmother and granddaughter, unfold in the turmoil of never-ending war. Her fresh imagery reflects a constant dependence on the earth for survival, passed down through generations of farmers.

Nguyen Phan invited me in to meet her people, to experience their joy, suffer their pain and understand their struggle to keep the dream of cultural survival alive. Wave after wave of community reorganization swept families caught in the currents of violence and cruelty from north to south and back again. The story covers time and events from 1930 to 1980 but not in chronological order. The time changes are clearly designated and further reflect the total disruption of life that took place, during the twentieth century, in Vietnam.
Lynn D. (Kingston, NY)

The Mountains Sing
This beautifully written historical novel tells the 20th century Vietnamese history of conflict, famine, and corruption, through the lives of a resilient and loving grandmother, born in 1920, and her granddaughter, born in 1960, who long for a world without war. Their struggles to survive, and stay a family, portray the impact war can have for many generations. For those of us who grew up during the American war in Vietnam, it is powerful that this story is told from the perspective of a family in North View Nam. There are moments of kindness and generosity in the midst of devastation which help sustain the Tran family. Huong, the granddaughter remains hopeful: "Somehow I was sure if people were willing to read each other, and see the light of other cultures, there would be no war on earth." Perhaps this story can inspire us to greater understanding and acceptance of each other.
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