Prime Monkey BridgeAuthor Lan Cao – Batdongsanhoian.co
Rating 4.5 This is a beautifully written, semi autobiographical novel about immigration, coming of age, love, mother daughter relationships, and so much The story is told from two views, mother and daughter, though the daughter s view predominates The mother s story is conveyed in letters and diary entries and appears rarely, but is the lyrical writing and very effective and affecting Both women escaped the war in Vietnam and went to the United States about three years prior to the beginning of the story, which is related in both real time and flashback The daughter, Mai, was the first to leave Vietnam, accompanied by a U S soldier family friend who housed her until her mother could join her Mai s assimilation of English and the U S culture was much quicker, both because she was younger and had time to acquire Americanization, than it was for her mother Also, her mother, Tran, being older and having lived in Vietnam for a much longer time, was not so willing to give up her Vietnamese superstitions and culture Through Mai and Tran we learn both what it was like to live in Vietnam in the years of the U S war and to try to immigrate to a new country and culture We also learn much about the women s past lives and hopes for the future Recommended. This was one of the most boring books I have ever read Every page was a slow and heavy with pointless descriptions and annoying tangents If I didn t have to read this for class, I would have given up on it within the first ten pages The characters are neither memorable nor relatable, and there is a very limited plotline, which could have been told efficiently with only 50 pages as opposed to 260 Terrible. Should be a 4 star rating, but 3 stars overall.I still don t know what to make of this book It s been some years since I read it, and I ve had a lot of time to digest it, but I still don t know what to make of it.I went into this book with some expectations how could I not It s ambitious and has been praised for ground breaking achievements While Cao s writing is great and full of subtle emotional intensity, the ending left me hanging It felt uncomfortable and unsettling the way nonfictional accounts of tragedies tend to leave the audience in quiet disbelief There s an uneasiness, a quiet disturbing sense of uneasiness that I felt after finishing the book and the feeling didn t go away It just didn t dissipate If that was the intended effect, then it s successful in that sense But if it wasn t intended, then that s quite a peculiar byproduct of the story.Let s talk about the writing The prose is familiar to me because I ve read many books that follow this kind of narrative What makes Cao s story stand out is the subtle unease and tense silences that grew between mother and daughter as each gradually become a stranger to the other person and a stranger to even herself. I really enjoyed this book Vietnam is an integral part of who I am After a tour of duty with the Australian Army in 1970 71 I have been back many times I made close friends with a number of people during my tour, among them soldiers, farmers, a scholar, a monk and many, many children There is so much here that strikes a chord for me The sense of something valuable, some continuity having been cut violently in 1975 is a mark that has never left me I had a feeling of having lost so much, people who had been a blessing in my life placed so violently beyond my reach I always wondered about how things might have been for them if they ever got out The timbre of their experience Such personal things were not the things often discussed with Vietnamese, even if one had the language, so impolite to be so up front about feelings There is in the culture though this amazingly subtle and poignant way of being that gives expression to those feelings if a person has the key and the presence to see them It is so very evident in their poetry particularly That sensibility is here in this book as well as the conflicted identities of parents and children cast up on a foreign shore It is a great read. Hailed By Critics And Writers As Powerful, Important Fiction, Monkey Bridge Charts The Unmapped Territory Of The Vietnamese American Experience In The Aftermath Of War Like Navigating A Monkey Bridge A Bridge, Built Of Spindly Bamboo, Used By Peasants For Centuries The Narrative Traverses Perilously Between Worlds Past And Present, East And West, In Telling Two Interlocking Stories One, The Vietnamese Version Of The Classic Immigrant Experience In America, Told By A Young Girl And The Second, A Dark Tale Of Betrayal, Political Intrigue, Family Secrets, And Revenge Her Mother S Tale The Haunting And Beautiful Terrain Of Monkey Bridge Is The Luminous Motion, As It Is Called In Vietnamese Myth And Legend, Between Generations, Encompassing Vietnamese Lore, History, And Dreams Of The Past As Well As Of The Future With Incredible Lightness, Balance And Elegance, Writes Isabel Allende, ALan Cao Crosses Over An Abyss Of Pain, Loss, Separation And Exile, Connecting On One Level The Opposite Realities Of Vietnam And North America, And On A Deeper Level The Realities Of The Material World And The World Of The Spirits Quality Paperback Book Club Selection And New Voices Award NomineeA Philadelphia Inquirer Best Of The Rest Of Summer PickA Kiriyama Pacific Rim Award Book Prize Nominee The Reality of Home In Monkey Bridge by Lan Cao, the reader follows the juxtaposition of two stories between daughter and mother Mai and her mother, Thanh, are immigrants from the Vietnam War trying to adjust to their new American life The story goes back and forth from present issues, like Thanh s illness and Mai going off to college, and the unresolved matters left in Vietnam, like the unknown whereabouts of Mai s grandfather Though the book is not one that leaves the reader in suspense and feels like you re reading a diary of two different individuals, it addresses the struggles of cultural identity, being an immigrant family, and life in Vietnam.Mai, being Americanized than her mother, continually reflects on the differences the two worlds have and how her people are adopting the westernized mindset but still honoring their heritage She says, It was the Vietnamese version of the American Dream a new spin, the Vietnam spin, to the old immigrant faith in the future 40 Mai further explains this concept by later saying, Rebirthing the past, we called it, claiming what had once been a power reserved only for gods and other immortal beings 41 That is what immigration is, in a way, a rebirth of a new person However, this concept can cause clashes between the different generations of a household, a battle between modern and traditional ideas.While Mai has become quite accustomed to life in America, her mother, on the other hand still holds pretty true to their Vietnamese roots Mai, like most children of immigrant parents, struggles with her self identity and the one her mother wants her to have Through their parallel stories, the reader learns about both sides and the impact it can have on a family In a diary entry by Thanh, she addresses the differences between her daughter and herself She writes, She thinks I am a mystifier out to confuse her world, to make her see double where there are only simple mathematical answers 56 This quote is only one of many great moments in the book where the reader really can see how the Melting Pot of America can divide families and the struggles they go through to understand the opposing views of the world.The book s setting is during the Vietnam War, so the reader also learns a great deal of what the war was like and the effect it had on the culture Thanh talks about her country from the wedding traditions to political tensions that tore up the place she once called home She wrote, But just as you can t have a top without a bottom, or sun without a moon, you can t have Americans without Vietcong 239 And And so I can only hope that my act of sacrifice will give you the new beginning that you deserve, far from the concealing fields and free of a destiny that should never have been yours 253 She further reveals the ugliness of living during a war, though this wasn t her first Through this character, Cao shows the reality of veterans of war who didn t carry a gun and the wounds that they take without earning a medal This book does a tremendous job showing what immigrants of war go through while also showing what Vietnam culture was like From the conflict between adapting to the struggle to keeping one s cultural identity, the book covers all aspects of war It also discusses the strain a family goes through while trying to adjust, and the secrets that hover below the surface of reality. Just when you think you re going to read a happy ending a dark twist appears Monkey Bridge is a beautifully written tale about the lives of two Vietnamese refugees Mai and her mother, Thahn It takes place after the Vietnam War ends in a small Virginia town they call Little Saigon Saigon was their home in Vietnam The reader sees two perspectives intertwined into one big picture Mai is a loving daughter although somewhat embarrassed by her mother who is stuck in her ways When her mother injures herself she repeats Baba Quan in her sleep So, Mai seeks to find Baba Quan who is her grandfather back in Vietnam The problem is there isn t a way in America to reach Vietnam although the war has ended Mai stays very determined throughout the story and she reveals to us Thahn s thoughts and past by reading her personal papers I wanted to read this story because I felt like it would present a perspective that is very different from mine It certainly accomplished that and gave a fresh view I don t think any American could grasp unless they were there themselves In life it s important to understand that your past does not have to determine your future, that is what I took away from this book I can connect my own family bonds to what Mai and Thahn have I recommend this book because the twist at the end completely rips your heart out and leaves you in shock. I am not entirely sure how to feel about this novel I enjoyed it I am in love with the way Cao writes because it is some of the most beautiful writing I have ever read I love the story I love the exposure of the immigrant experience I love the subject of the Vietnam war I am not sure how to deal with my feelings on what Mai s mom did to her, though I ll come back to it when I have time hopefully I tend to forget to come back to things, but it is my intention to do so, as always. Two tales of the Vietnam war, one from a Vietnamese woman who immigrates to the U.S bringing her culture, and secrets from the past, the other from her daughter, who attempts to make sense of her family history without the missing pieces of her mother s story. Meh The first half of the book is like reading a really convoluted dream sequence I couldn t even tell if the main character was male or female for like 30 pages Everything is from the point of view of the main character, Mai, who is a Vietnamese immigrant in her senior year of high school On top of the hardships that go along with immigration, she s dealing with her mother s failing physical and mental health, the regular mother daughter misunderstandings, as well as the sorrow of an unidentified event leaving her only remaining family member in Vietnam.If I was going to rate this book on IDEAS alone, I would give it 3, maybe 4, stars But the organization and flow of the content is frustrating, slow at points, and jumbled And although the book was written in first person, I felt like I got to know Mai s mother by her journal entries better than I got to know Mai through her narrative.I recommend refreshing your memory on the vietnam war before reading this book You ll be a lot less confused once you do The book doesn t remind you itself who was on who s side, or the history and timeline in plain terms So be prepared to remind yourself of who fought the war, what each side stood for, the major battles, and the geography of Vietnam.Beyond the organizational and structural items that bothered me, by the time I finished the book, I found Mai s main conflict to be satisfying Throughout the book, she is confused about how to interact with her mother This is in the normal way mothers and daughters have a hard time understanding each other s goals, desires, history, and life But there s the added conflict between Mai and her mother that her mother is stuck in traditional Vietnamese ways, while they are living in America and Mai is willing to adapt They are growing much further apart than I believe they would have if Mai had grown up only in Vietnam In the beginning, Mai is resistant to her mother s ways and lifestyle centered around Karma But by the end of the book, although there is a bitter end in some ways, Mai learns to appreciate her mother s ways and apply them to her life in ways she can accept While I don t agree that her mother HAD to do the things she did in order to give Mai a Karmatic fresh start, I can appreciate Mai s appreciation, because she needed to learn her mother s heart.There are often very visual metaphores and analogies that I found quite impressive.If someone asked me if they should read this book, I would probably say yes But in a go for it and see what you think way I would recommend that they stick around for the end, and try to read the book in 1 or 2 sittings to not get dragged down Everything comes together in the end.