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Posted August 20, 2007
Fantastic novel on eastern culture
In Lan Cao¿s ¿Monkey Bridge,¿ she succeeds in doing what very few authors have by capturing the essence and simplicity of eastern culture in a western novel. It is a story told from the wary eyes of a young Vietnamese immigrant girl who is unaccustomed to her new American way of life. Mai is a character who respects her past but also questions its place in American society. As the novel progresses, an immutable rift grows between Mai and her mother as American culture widens both the cultural and generational gap between family members. The novel addresses the familial duties of honor and respect, as well as the societal behaviors of conformity and change. As the novel progresses, the themes do as well eventually highlighting the concepts of treachery, betrayal, and unchecked passion. The setting is Post-Vietnam America¿a sensitive era of healing, when many Americans simply want to put the past behind them. However, for Mai and her family, putting the past behind them ultimately means abandoning their culture for a new way of life. Though Mai wants to be accepted by her peers, there are also things in her past that have never been explained to her. In an attempt to find answers, Mai reads the diaries of her mother hoping to bridge the gap growing between them. Finally, at the end of the novel Mai¿s mother explains in indiscriminate detail their dark family history¿a revelation that disturbs Mai and awakens in her greater love and appreciation for her mother. In the end, Lan Cao crafts an engrossing tale that is stark in its reality and surreal in its authenticity. It is a tale that captures in perfection the immigrant experience and ultimately the audacity of human spirit.
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Posted February 8, 2003
Refreshing and Welcomed!
I am a child of Vietnamese immigrants and have read dozens of novels, plays and what not, and Cao's book about Mai's experience is extremely relatable. However, I think that this book transcends the Vietnamese American experience, and encompasses all general trends children of any immigrant parents have. I thought it was somewhat long winded at times, but overall, this book is refreshing and welcomed for it's contribution to America's meager literature on the Asian American Immigrant experience and particularly the Vietnamese American Experience.
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