Reviews of Dragonfish by Vu Tran

Dragonfish

A Novel

by Vu Tran

Dragonfish by Vu Tran X
Dragonfish by Vu Tran
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  • First Published:
    Aug 2015, 304 pages

    Paperback:
    Aug 2016, 304 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Poornima Apte
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About this Book

Book Summary

A thrilling and cinematic work of sophisticated suspense and haunting lyricism, set in motion by characters who can neither trust each other nor trust themselves.

Robert, an Oakland cop, still can't let go of Suzy, the enigmatic Vietnamese wife who left him two years ago. Now she's disappeared from her new husband, Sonny, a violent Vietnamese smuggler and gambler who's blackmailing Robert into finding her for him. As he pursues her through the sleek and seamy gambling dens of Las Vegas, shadowed by Sonny's sadistic son, "Junior," and assisted by unexpected and reluctant allies, Robert learns more about his ex-wife than he ever did during their marriage. He finds himself chasing the ghosts of her past, one that reaches back to a refugee camp in Malaysia after the fall of Saigon, as his investigation soon uncovers the existence of an elusive packet of her secret letters to someone she left behind long ago. Although Robert starts illuminating the dark corners of Suzy's life, the legacy of her sins threatens to immolate them all.

Vu Tran has written a thrilling and cinematic work of sophisticated suspense and haunting lyricism, set in motion by characters who can neither trust each other nor trust themselves. This remarkable debut is a noir page-turner resonant with the lasting reverberations of lives lost and lives remade a generation ago.

Excerpt
Dragonfish

When Suzy left me, it was easy at first. No children. No possessions to split up. No one really to care. I was an only child, my parents both years in their graves, and her entire family was either also dead or still in Vietnam. After eight years together, I'd gotten to know maybe two or three of her friends, and the only things my police buddies knew about her was her name and her temper.

She gave me the news after Sunday dinner. I was sitting at the dining table, and she approached me from the kitchen, her mouth still swollen, and said, "I'm leaving tomorrow and I'm taking my clothes. You can have everything else." She carried away my -half--empty plate and I heard it shatter in the sink.

The first time I met her, I knew she was fearless. I was responding to a robbery at the flower shop where she worked. She'd been in America almost a decade, but her English was still pretty bad. When I arrived, she stood at the door with a baseball bat in one...

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In all her moral complexities, Suzy is a boldly imagined protagonist, not easily likeable but deeply human just the same. That we learn about Suzy solely through memories pieced together by others and end up caring about her as deeply as we do, is testament to Tran’s remarkable craftsmanship. By effortlessly moving a noir story beyond the confines of its genre, he proves he is a writer to watch...continued

Full Review (767 words).

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(Reviewed by Poornima Apte).

Media Reviews

Kirkus Reviews
Starred Review. Right off the bat, Tran displays the most admirable and worthwhile gift a serious thriller writer can have: compassion toward even the most disreputable of his characters.

Library Journal
Starred Review. This haunting and mesmerizing debut is filled with all the noir elements - a dark and seedy underworld, damsels in distress, tarnished heroes, and a blurring of moral boundaries. It examines such themes as culture, desperation, memory, mental illness, love, loss, and redemption. Highly recommended.

Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. This is a most enjoyable mystery, from its distinct, dazzling premise all the way to its satisfying conclusion.

Author Blurb Dinaw Mengestu, author of All Our Names
Vu Tran's Dragonfish is that rare hybrid marvel - a literary thriller, a narrative of migration and loss that upends the conventions of any form.

Reader Reviews

Diane S.

Dragonfish
Robert is an Oakland cop who had been married to Suzy, a Vietnamese refugee for eight years, when following a night of domestic abuse, she leaves him. He finds out that she has married a man named Sonny who has broken her arm causing her once again ...   Read More

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Beyond the Book

Pulau Bidong Refugee Camp

Pulau BidongIn Dragonfish, Suzy writes about leaving Vietnam with her daughter, and arriving on an island before finally being resettled in the United States. She was one of many boat people, and this aspect of the story might well be modeled after Vu Tran's real-life experiences where he and most of his family were refugees at Pulau Bidong before passage to Oklahoma. It was only in Oklahoma that Tran met his father for the first time.

Situated off the northeast coast of Malaysia, Pulau Bidong (pulau means island in Malay) was largely uninhabited until shortly after the fall of Saigon in April 1975 (see Beyond the Book for The Sympathizer) when the first refugees from Vietnam, a boatload of 47 people, made the hazardous 700 mile trip across the...

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