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From Barnes & NobleThe Barnes & Noble Review from Discover Great New Writers
Novelist Monique Truong has also chosen to tackle the lives of the literary in her fiction debut. "Unemployed and Alone" is the phrase the narrator of this highly original novel uses to describe himself. That is, before he met the two women who would employ him for the next five years. Bình, a Vietnamese cook, fled Saigon in 1929, disgracing his family to serve as galley hand at sea. The taunts of his now-deceased father ringing in his ears, Bình answers an ad for a live-in cook at a Parisian household, and soon finds himself employed by Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas.
While America struggles under the dual weights of Prohibition and the Great Depression, Paris has continued to swing, albeit with more than a hint of anti-American sentiment. Toklas and Stein hold court in their literary salon, for which the devoted yet acerbic Bình serves as chef, and as a keen observer of his "Mesdames" and their distinguished guests. But when the enigmatic literary ladies decide to journey back to America, Bình is faced with a monumental choice: will he, the self-imposed "exile," accompany them to yet another new country, return to his native Vietnam, or make Paris his home? With its rich blend of culinary delights and literary revelations, The Book of Salt is a much-needed ingredient on every smart reader's book list. (Spring 2003 Selection)