Reviews of All That's Left Unsaid by Tracey Lien

All That's Left Unsaid

A Novel

by Tracey Lien

All That's Left Unsaid by Tracey Lien X
All That's Left Unsaid by Tracey Lien
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     Not Yet Rated
  • Published:
    Sep 2022, 304 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Callum McLaughlin
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About this Book

Book Summary

For fans of Everything I Never Told You and The Mothers, a deeply moving and unflinching debut following a young Vietnamese-Australian woman who returns home to her family in the wake of her brother's shocking murder, determined to discover what happened - a dramatic exploration of the intricate bonds and obligations of friendship, family, and community.

Just let him go. These are the words Ky Tran will forever regret. The words she spoke when her parents called to ask if they should let her younger brother Denny out to celebrate his high school graduation with friends. That night, Denny—optimistic, guileless, brilliant Denny—is brutally murdered inside a busy restaurant in the Sydney suburb of Cabramatta, a refugee enclave facing violent crime, an indifferent police force, and the worst heroin epidemic in Australian history.

Returning home to Cabramatta for the funeral, Ky learns that the police are stumped by Denny's case: a dozen people were at Lucky 8 restaurant when Denny died, but each of the bystanders claim to have seen nothing.

Desperately hoping that understanding what happened might ease her suffocating guilt, Ky sets aside her grief and determines to track down the witnesses herself. With each encounter, she peels back another layer of the place that shaped her and Denny, exposing the seeds of violence that were planted well before that fateful celebration dinner: by colonialism, by the war in Vietnam, and by the choices they've all made to survive.

Alternating between Ky's voice and the perspectives of the witnesses, Tracey Lien's extraordinary debut is at once heart-pounding and heart-rending as it probes the intricate bonds of friendship, family, and community through an unforgettable cast of characters, all connected by a devastating crime. Combining evocative family drama and gripping suspense, All That's Left Unsaid is a profound and moving page turner, perfect for readers of Liz Moore, Brit Bennett, and Celeste Ng.

Chapter 1

The circumstances of Denny Tran's death were so violent that most people in Cabramatta were too spooked to attend his funeral. At least that's how it seemed to his big sister, Ky. The funeral hall had been all but empty—her dead seventeen-year-old brother lay in the glossy closed casket; her parents and a few relatives kneeled next to a blown-up photo of a grinning Denny; and a Buddhist monk chanted prayers in exchange for lunch.

The only non-family in attendance were Denny's high school teachers, who huddled together big-eyed and confused by the lack of seating and eulogies. At the wake, they stood in the doorway to her family's narrow townhouse, still holding the flowers and signed cards they'd brought to the funeral (no one had told them that Vietnamese families take cash), and waved at Ky like they were getting a waiter's attention.

"Hi, Ky!" Mr. Dickson said in a voice that was too cheerful for the occasion, his mouth stretched wide in what appeared to be an ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!

Chapter 1

The circumstances of Denny Tran's death were so violent that most people in Cabramatta were too spooked to attend his funeral. At least that's how it seemed to his big sister, Ky. The funeral hall had been all but empty—her dead seventeen-year-old brother lay in the glossy closed casket; her parents and a few relatives kneeled next to a blown-up photo of a grinning Denny; and a Buddhist monk chanted prayers in exchange for lunch.

The only non-family in attendance were Denny's high school teachers, who huddled together big-eyed and confused by the lack of seating and eulogies. At the wake, they stood in the doorway to her family's narrow townhouse, still holding the flowers and signed cards they'd brought to the funeral (no...

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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

Though Ky channels her grief into a search for answers, and thus a thread of mystery runs throughout the story, All That's Left Unsaid by Tracey Lien is not a crime novel in the traditional sense. It would be much more accurate to describe it as a family drama. The book is a very intimate look at the weight of generational trauma and our ability to hurt those we love the most. Lien's novel is also a dissection of life for Vietnamese immigrants in Australia in the 1990s, when the main events of the story take place.

Media Reviews

Oprah Daily
While the mystery is compelling, like the richest literary crime fiction, this story has broader ambitions than revealing who did it...Lien's poignant and impeccable storytelling shines.

Publishers Weekly (starred review)
Set in 1996, Lien's insightful, emotional debut intelligently incorporates cultural concerns into a tightly focused mystery...[she] skillfully blends xenophobia and the Vietnamese residents' suspicions of outsiders into a scintillating plot. Readers will eagerly await Lien's next.

Booklist
Fans of Roselle Lim and Sonya Cobb will appreciate Lien's keen exploration of the cultural impulse to close ranks after a tragedy, and the power of clarity. " -

Kirkus Reviews
[M]emorable and powerful...A fictional tragedy evoked with such clarity and specificity that it will linger in your memory as if it really happened.

Author Blurb Angie Kim, internationally bestselling author of Miracle Creek
All That's Left Unsaid is a stunning debut, an unputdownable mystery combined with a profoundly moving family drama about the ways we hurt and hide from those we love most—and how we mend and strengthen those lifelong bonds. It blew me away.

Author Blurb Katie Gutierrez, author of More Than You'll Ever Know
One of the most profoundly affecting novels I've ever read, All That's Left Unsaid is a wrenching, propulsive story about the desire to belong, the collision course between displacement and injustice, the long life of inherited trauma and the short lives we all live...Every character is rendered with astonishing precision and empathy, creating a vital and unforgettable portrait not just of a Vietnamese-Australian community, but a family fighting its way forward in the aftermath of a violent crime.

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