The Mountains Sing

Nguyen Phan Que Mai

“An epic account of Việt Nam’s painful 20th century history, both vast in scope and intimate in its telling . . . Moving and riveting.” —VIET THANH NGUYEN, author of The Sympathizer, winner of the Pulitzer Prize

With the epic sweep of Min Jin Lee’s Pachinko or Yaa Gyasi’s Homegoing and the lyrical beauty of Vaddey Ratner’s In the Shadow of the BanyanThe Mountains Sing tells an enveloping, multigenerational tale of the Trần family, set against the backdrop of the Việt Nam War. Trần Diệu Lan, who was born in 1920, was forced to flee her family farm with her six children during the Land Reform as the Communist government rose in the North. Years later in Hà Nội, her young granddaughter, Hương, comes of age as her parents and uncles head off down the Hồ Chí Minh Trail to fight in a conflict that tore not just her beloved country, but her family apart.

Vivid, gripping, and steeped in the language and traditions of Việt Nam, The Mountains Sing brings to life the human costs of this conflict from the point of view of the Vietnamese people themselves, while showing us the true power of kindness and hope.

The Mountains Sing is celebrated Vietnamese poet Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai’s first novel in English.

-Excerpt taken from Goodreads.

Check Goodreads to see the book’s ratings.

My Opinion

I have no idea if this story was true but it is so detailed that a lot of it has to be based on true stories. It reads a bit like a memoir while also sounding like fiction. I’m sure it is composed of many different people stories but it was jaw-dropping powerful. I cannot begin to describe the many, many, many tragedies this family endured. Endured is a word I’m very specifically choosing because that is what they did. They not only endured, but overcame their trials. It is humbling to read. I had to set it aside so many times because it was heavy. It felt too real, it hurt too much. People should not be cruel enough to cause lifetimes of tragedies. I feel I’m a better person for knowing this story and I will keep it in my heart for many years to come.

It starts with war-torn Vietnam where a child and grandmother are running from bombs. Immediately, my heart was in my throat. Most of their family members are fighting far away and these two only have each other. The grandma tells stories to her young granddaughter and it’s horrifying to hear what she has endured. Many deaths by the hands of people, land taken away, children taken away, having to give away children for their safety, rape, starvation… and so much more. The effort they went through to keep their family together was admirable and it broke my heart each time they were split up. I was on a roller coaster of emotions and grief. There were times I got lost as to who was telling the story, but I feel if I read it vs listening to it, that I might not have had that problem.
I’ve never read history of the Vietnam war. Not only did I get to hear about this war from their side, but what happened afterward and the fighting within their country also. It is a very powerful read and great for the historical aspect.
The content has language and very mature situations such as people being killed, raped or seriously abused that I do not recommend for all readers. I do recommend it for people who love hearing the “other side” of history and historical fiction.

Thank you and Algonquin Books for the free ALC in exchange for an honest review. 

**As an Amazon associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

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