- Fizzy Thoughts: The Gangster We Are All Looking For

The Gangster We Are All Looking For

Thursday, July 02, 2009

The Gangster We Are All Looking For

le thi diem thuy
176 pages


This acclaimed novel reveals the life of a Vietnamese family in America through the knowing eyes of a child finding her place and voice in a new country.

In 1978 six refugees — a girl, her father, and four "uncles" — are pulled from the sea to begin a new life in San Diego. In the child's imagination, the world is transmuted into an unearthly realm: she sees everything intensely, hears the distress calls of inanimate objects, and waits for her mother to join her. But life loses none of its strangeness when the family is reunited. As the girl grows, her matter-of-fact innocence eddies increasingly around opaque and ghostly traumas: the cataclysm that engulfed her homeland, the memory of a brother who drowned and, most inescapable, her father's hopeless rage.

This is a very short novel that bears some similarities to the author’s life (a drowned sibling, immigration to the US).  There are parts of the novel that I liked (mostly the beginning when the young narrator and her father, Ba, and “uncles” struggle to find their way, and the time after her mother arrives).  However, the uncles soon disappear from the story and it starts skipping around in time.  Ba succumbs to mysterious rages that are difficult to understand.  Sure we get glimpses into his mysterious past and the death of his son, but I kept waiting for the shoe to drop and it never did.  Aagh!  Additionally, what was the meaning of Ba’s increasing anxiety?  What was its purpose??  In the end, for me, the language and emotions just weren’t enough to carry this book and it’s underdeveloped story.  I’m too literal for books like this.

8 comment(s):

booklineandsinker said...

sorry it didn't work for you--but i know what you mean about the need to understand the "why" of things. i also like to see what motivates characters and to see the plots well-constructed and complete.

what's next on your 'tbr' pile? hope you enjoy it a bit more! :)

Eva said...

Have you read A Good Scent From a Strange Mountain? It's a short story collection that's mainly about Vietnamese immigrants in American, and it's just incredible (it also won the Pulitzer). The author was a Vietnamese linguist during the war (he's American). I read it back in high school, and I still remember my favourite stories and quotes!

bermudaonion said...

I don't think I would enjoy this one either.

bkclubcare said...

Eva and the books she has read = amazing.

Ti said...

Well at least it was short and you didn't waste too much time on it.

heidenkind said...

That's too bad. The title is very catchy.

Veens said...

Neither do I think I will enjoy this one. Atleast it was a short one :)

Literate Housewife said...

And here I thought you were writing a post about Johnny Depp's new movie (which you probably would have liked a lot better). :)

In a real sense, people who have read good literature have lived more than people who cannot or will not read. It is not true that we have only one life to live; if we can read, we can live as many more lives and as many kinds of lives as we wish. ~S.I. Hayakawa

The World is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page.
~St. Augustine

Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness.
~Mark Twain

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