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A Good Scent from a Strange Mountain

A Good Scent from a Strange Mountain

4.4 18
by Robert Olen Butler

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Winner of the Pulitzer Prize
A Good Scent from a Strange Mountain is Robert Olen Butler’s Pulitzer Prize-winning collection of lyrical and poignant stories about the aftermath of the Vietnam War and its enduring impact on the Vietnamese. Written in a soaring prose, Butler’s haunting and powerful stories blend Vietnamese folklore and


Winner of the Pulitzer Prize
A Good Scent from a Strange Mountain is Robert Olen Butler’s Pulitzer Prize-winning collection of lyrical and poignant stories about the aftermath of the Vietnam War and its enduring impact on the Vietnamese. Written in a soaring prose, Butler’s haunting and powerful stories blend Vietnamese folklore and contemporary American realities, creating a vibrant panorama that is epic in its scope. This new edition includes two previously uncollected stories—“Missing” and “Salem”—that brilliantly complete the collection’s narrative journey, returning to the jungles of Vietnam to explore the experiences of a former Vietcong soldier and an American MIA.

Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
In a short span of time, many Vietnamese immigrants to the United States have quietly made good in their adopted country. Butler, who served in Vietnam as a translator, now has given this silent community a voice. The first-person narrators in these tales explore both the old country and the new (primarily Louisiana), as well as the realm of the spirits. Each story unfolds like a delicate paper fan, with startling, ghostly images hiding in every crevice. While many writers have finely described the daily grind of the immigrant experience, Butler has gone one step further, evoking the collective unconscious of a displaced population. Recommended for all literary fiction collections and essential for libraries seeking to expand Asian American literature collections.-- Rita Ciresi, Pennsylvania State Univ., University Park
Madison Smartt Bell
Butler's achievement is not only to reveal the inner lives of the Vietnamese, but to show, through their eyes, how the rest of us appear from an outside perspective.
Chicago Tribune
John Clark Pratt
The number of novels and short-story collections about the Vietnam War is now approaching 500. Were I to recommend a single volume that poignantly shows the magnitude and the humanity of the tragedy, it would be this one.
The Detroit News

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Grove Atlantic
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A Good Scent from a Strange Mountain: Stories 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 18 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
this is a very interesting book, containing many different points of views of a vietnamese person in america or during war. The author lays out the information he had gathered very smoothly and nicely as though he was vietnamese. His voice are reaching out as though as he was really the female or male telling the story in the hard time of the misunderstood vietnamese.. He explains in a very vivid way about how everyone is the same... All people think the same way and solve problems in the same way no matter where they are at and what they are.. Excellent book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Robert Olen Butler writes with an insight that makes his characters come alive in a few short pages. His command of English and his vivid descriptive capabilities make us feel we are the person he is writing about. The story "Salem" was amazing. Remember those cigarettes? Suddenly I was back in that period, in that forest, in that tree awaiting an American G.I. , and shooting him became a vivid experience. Then when the Viet Cong soldier repents after many years and decides to let his superiors know he has held on to a picture - you feel his anxiety and at the same time you feel so sad for the G.I. and his loved ones. If ever we are to finally give up fighting wars, this ability to write and bring the horrors of war on both sides to reality, will be the reason why. There are other lighter stories which give an insight into the lives of Vietnamese dancing girls, Vietnamese immigrants to New Orleans and older Vietnamese reflecting on how their world has changed. I cannot recommend this book highly enough.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Dr_Wilson_Trivino More than 1 year ago
As we deal in being a nation at war, it is sometimes good to reflect on the past. Vietnam, a conflict whose scars still lie deep in America's psyche is of often misunderstood. With fifteen short stories in A Good Scent From a Strange Mountain Stories by Robert Olen Butler, this book takes you into the ordeals of the Vietnamese. The voices are young, old, and a diverse background. The mix brings alive and humanizes this often misunderstood period of our nation's history. A Good Scent From a Strange Mountain Stories by Robert Olen Butler movingly gives life to multilevel impact of the Vietnam War.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Lana3 More than 1 year ago
Astounding, touching and revelatory book. Robert Olen Butler writes masterfully, and his voice is singular.. Each time you read "A Good Scent from a Strange Mountain", you will learn something new about the world and about yourself.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
A Good Scent from a Strange Mountain is a delight for readers of all backgrounds. It is a collection of fifteen stories about Vietnamese men and women living in Louisiana post-Vietnam war. The author, Robert Olen Butler, does an excellent job of creating imagery for the reader and lets the reader experience Vietnam culture. ¿We are all like that in Vietnam. We honor our families. My four children honor me very much and I honor them. My wife is devoted to me and I am devoted to her. I love her. We are very lucky in that our parents allowed us to marry for love. That is to say, my mother and father and my wife¿s mother allowed it. Her father was dead. We still have a little shrine in our house and pray for him, which is the way of all Vietnamese, even if they are Catholic.¿ It is easy to get lost in the novel and forget that the stories, some told from a woman's point of view, were actually written by an American man. ¿I said nothing, and I almost raised my hand to put it on his shoulder, but my husband is old-fashioned, really. He would rather touch me first. So I simply nodded at his words.¿ These short stories are definitely worth reading for their entertainment and the validity of the Vietnam culture represented. Butler¿s narrators are very believable characters and it is a joy to get an insight into their different lives. Each of the fifteen short stories is separate from each other and has their own plot and characters. Although this book is not well known, Butler won a Pulitzer Prize for it in 1993. I highly recommend this novel to anyone looking for a light read that is a little out of the ordinary.
Guest More than 1 year ago
A Good Scent from a Strange Mountain is a diverse collection of short stories about the lives of Vietnamese immigrants in America after the Vietnam War. Each story distinguishes itself from the rest due to Robert Olen Butler¿s proficiency in characterization. After each story a new character has emerged in your imagination¿dynamic and interesting and unlike the characters preceding and those still to come. No matter their age, gender, or particular circumstance Butler creates a character you can get to know and understand. For instance, in Letters from my Father Butler portrays ¿a child of dust,¿ that is, a young Vietnamese girl who was separated from her American father after the war had ended. The story emphasizes their relationship and the struggle they encounter in trying to know one another even after she is able to come to America. As well, a man occupied with jealousy over his wife¿s indiscretions is depicted in Love. Ironically, love isn¿t a dominant sentiment in this eccentric tale. Mid-Autumn narrates the story of a mother connecting with her unborn baby by sharing how she and the father first met. The father died fighting in the war and yet the woman is preparing to welcome her baby into a life full of hope and warmth. The remaining stories are enriched with characters of quality and sincerity that are all worthy of thoughtful recognition. By reading A Good Scent from a Strange Mountain an array of characters and situations are exposed. Butler¿s characterizations fill the pages and connect you into the unique lives of its characters.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The passion with which Robert Butler writes in A Good Scent from a Strange Mountain is surprising and impressive, particularly for a white author portraying Vietnamese people. He truly seems to have captured the Vietnamese spirit, and he is convincing to his audience that he is qualified to write from such a perspective. Butler took on a huge challenge here. In these stories, not only did he choose to write from the perspective of people from across the globe, he also chose to tackle writing as a woman. His success in writing from the female perspective is enough to make the reader forget Butler¿s true gender. Seven of the seventeen stories are narrated by female characters. Furthermore, these stories deal with particularly female topics. In ¿Mid-Autumn,¿ a mother speaks to her unborn daughter, still inside her womb. In another, a woman narrates as she prepares her best friend¿s dead body. This story is centered around the deceased friend¿s concealed breast cancer, and her desperation to preserve her dignity by maintaining a womanly figure. In ¿The American Couple,¿ Butler illuminates a wife¿s most personal feelings about her marriage. As a female, I feel Butler does justice to the situations as well as any male writer could. The masterpiece that is born from Butler¿s courage in diversifying his voice is a testament to his standing as an achieved, Pulitzer Prize-winning author. If A Good Scent from a Strange Mountain captivated me, a white, American, teenage girl, it has the power to touch and enthrall an exceptionally widespread audience.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Robert Olen Butler's A Good Scent From a Strange Mountain is a collection of short stories written in first person about the experiences of Vietnamese people living in New Orleans after the Vietnam War. The Pulitzer Prize-winning book blends Vietnamese legends with the reality of adapting to American culture. Butler has written these stories in a way that reveals cultural universals- even Americans who have never left the country can relate to the experiences many of his Vietnamese characters have. Most of the stories are 15 pages or less in length, making it easy to pick up the book and read a story even if one only has a little bit of time to read. As short as the stories are, they seem to have the perfect length. It isn't as though they are rushed through and incomplete, and they are obviously unable to drag on and on in so little space. It is amazing that the stories in A Good Scent From a Strange Mountain are able to convey with such depth the feelings of isolation, despair, remorse, and sometimes happiness. Many of the stories are bleak from their outset, but the ones without a happy ending are just as profoundly satisfying as the stories with one. Butler's vivid imagery lets us feel the way these foreigners must have felt as they struggled with working as a stripper, interacting with Americans, being forced to view pornography, remaining loyal to the Vietnamese culture their parents refuse to give up, and even reacting to the concept of snow.
Guest More than 1 year ago
¿The mountains were covered in a green lush that looked like velour and was very much like Vietnam. There was a river running over the mountain, a brown river, as brown as a Mexican child, and our plane followed it until I could see the city out ahead of us strung along the sea¿ (156) A Good Scent from a Strange Mountain by Robert Olen Butler is a magnificent work of writing, overflowing with breath-taking and realistic settings. Butler¿s descriptions are incredibly detailed, and as shown by the quote above, he uses various techniques, such as symbolism, similes, and metaphors. This important element allows the reader to clearly visualize the dramatic scenes and understand their significance to the stories on a deeper level. Most importantly, the individual settings of the stories greatly emphasize the plots and numerous themes of the book. For example, in the chapter The American Couple the narrator views the Mexican setting as romantic and beautiful, while her husband vainly notices the litter and mud. Their disagreement over the scenery mirrors the disparity and detachment of their marriage. Therefore, the scenery gives the reader a symbolic way of understanding the characters¿ relations with one another. One of the unique aspects of Butler¿s writing is that he utilizes each setting description as a way for the reader to connect to the plots and meanings in the book. The use of strong scenery details is only one of his many strong writing abilities that make this book an effective and outstanding piece of work.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Reverberating with the collision of cultures, Robert Olen Butler¿s A Good Scent from a Strange Mountain is a sophisticated collection of short stories that tell the tales of Vietnamese men and women in America who are striving to adapt to American culture in the aftermath of the Vietnam War. Butler¿s work tackles a unique topic and has much to offer. However, along with the book¿s gems lurk stories that could easily be called mediocre for their monotony and repetitiveness.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I am a first generation Vietnamese. I came across this book few years ago. It touched my heart! The author has described the heart and mind of the Vietnamese people better than many Vietnamese writers themselves.I have recommended the book to many friends and acquaintances, and they all greatly enjoyed it. Happy Reading to All.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
That's good. I do agree with the reviewer below, you spent a good amount of time describing the earring. I do like your Greek letters.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Good plot line but i think you unloaded to much at a time for the earrings
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
2, The Darkening Sky <p> "No!" I screamed, crying. A pain filled the inside of me. <br> &#1492 H&sigma&omega c&sigma&upsilon<_>l&delta &tau<_>his h&alpha<_>ppe&eta<_>? Wh&gamma<_>! <br> I shook and touched it. I sighed and let go, going to my room to pull out the strange earing my mom had gave me on my last birthday, my 13th. <br> My mom had always said it had been crafted out of a fleck of gold from every world, that a dragon's fire had created melted it, and cats had designed it, crows and doves put it together, and finally, they all came together under the great dragon Zorgagroz and created it. It would stop the rein of evil Avara, and the one, out of all 15 worlds, chosen would recieve it. That one would have the key to the portal cave, and go to the other 14 worlds to find the new nobles and become the 15th noble... blah blah blabbity blah. Nobody cares. It is all a lie, isn't it? <p> I took my earings out and put the one, beautiful earing in. I shivered with a strange feeling of excitement that I was the chosen one... but that must've come from my inner 5 yr old. <br> &#1492 J&upsilon<_>s&tau r&alpha<_>i&delta the c&upsilon<_>pb&sigma&alpha<_>r&delta<_>s &alpha&eta&delta &tau&alpha<_>ke &tau<_>he vege&tau&alpha<_>bles fr&sigma<_>m &tau<_>he fri&delta<_>ge &alpha&eta&delta le&alpha<_>ve, &tau<_>h&alpha&tau e&alpha<_>s&gamma<_>. I&eta &alpha&eta&delta &sigma&upsilon&tau<_>. <p> I quickly snatched up the food I needed and fit it into my spare backpack. I always have a spare backpack around somewhere. <p> Th&alpha&eta<_>k &gamma&sigma&upsilon f&sigma<_>r c&sigma&eta<_>s&tau<_>r&upsilon<_>c&tau<_>ve cri&tau<_>ism! A&eta&delta b&gamma &tau<_>he &omega&alpha&gamma<_>, ever&gamma ch&alpha<_>p&tau<_>er is &alpha<_>c&tau&upsilon&alpha<_>ll&gamma &alpha<_>b&sigma&upsilon&tau six p&alpha<_>ges l&sigma&eta<_>g, excep&tau I &sigma&eta<_>l&gamma &omega<_>ri&tau<_>e h&alpha<_>lf &alpha ch&alpha<_>p&tau<_>er &alpha&tau &alpha &tau<_>ime. C&alpha&eta I ge&tau f&sigma&upsilon<_>r c&sigma<_>mme&eta&tau<_>s &tau<_>his &tau<_>ime?