Praise for If I Had Two Lives
"In this wise and lyrical debut, Abbigail Rosewood maps journeys through countries and journeys through the psyche in powerful, sensual detail. Every sentence is transporting, in all senses of the word. A gorgeous and resonant novel.”
Stacey D’Erasmo, author of Wonderland
"To come to America is to come of age: this is what Abbigail Rosewood reminds us, in prose of an almost ruthless compassion."
Joshua Cohen, author of Witz and The Book of Numbers
“A harrowing, wondrously constructed story of childhood and a brilliant meditation on how life is lived today.”
Gary Shteyngart, author of Super Sad True Love Story and Little Failure
“A stunning, totally original tale told by a masterful storyteller. Abbigail Rosewood tackles the heaviest topics with a light, magical touch. There is great talent on display here.”
Yelena Akhtiorskaya, author of Panic in a Suitcase
“The perfect novel of dislocation. With this extraordinary, artfully constructed and beautifully written debut, Abbigail Rosewood takes her place among the very best of the new wave of Asian-American authors.”
James Cañón, author of Tales from the Town of Widows
“A highly evolved, engrossing, and moving novel with vividly depicted characters that I will long remember. This is a remarkable achievement.”
Alan Ziegler, author of Short and The Swan Song of Vaudeville
Bookseller Praise for If I Had Two Lives
“Cannot stop thinking about the mother and daughter in Rosewood’s novel . . . This book is tailor-made for book clubs or anyone in need of stepping into another’s shoes, particularly two Vietnamese women.”Sarah Bagby, Watermark
“Achingly beautiful . . . the story of an emotionally unavailable mother and the complexities of friendships among the disenfranchised strike universal notes. I loved this book!”Kris Kleindiest, Left Bank Books
"It isn't often that you read a book where you are so merged with the main character that it feels like you are actually experiencing her life. Abbigail Rosewood has created a reading experience that is heartbreaking, emotionally challenging, eye opening, insightful and beautiful.”Laura Parsons, Island Bound Bookstore
“Asks some potent questions . . . Read this debut for unforgettable lessons in kinship.”Nancy Sheemaker, Northshire Bookstore
A woman raised in a Vietnamese military camp must reclaim her identity in this debut novel.
In 1997, when she's 7, the unnamed narrator is taken to a military camp where her mother, a reform-minded energy consultant, is hiding from her political enemies. There, the girl forms relationships that will shape the rest of her life. Her mother, engrossed in her mission of bringing electricity to Vietnam, alternately ignores her and berates her. A young soldier assigned to protect the mother and daughter offers the girl emotional support and a nurturing, stable presence. But the girl's most intense relationship is with a friend she refers to only as "the little girl," who is being sexually abused by her father. The narrator happily participates in her friend's fantasies: "My life depended on whatever imagined role the little girl gave me." But a rift forms between the girls when the narrator, now 13, is abruptly whisked to the U.S. In 2012, the narrator works in a cafe in New York and constructs facsimiles of her past relationships: She follows a man who reminds her of her soldier, moves into his apartment building, and befriends him. And she falls into an intense, erotically tinged relationship with a woman named Lilah. "I stared at [Lilah's] back, her narrow and boyish hips, and wondered what the little girl might look like as a woman." The narrator agrees to become a surrogate mother for Lilah and her husband, Jon, a decision that ultimately leads her back to Vietnam to confront her past. The novel is an exploration of the way people co-opt others for their own ends, and it's satisfying when the narrator finally gains clarity on the way her life has been warped to reinforce fantasies, both her own and other people's. But the story is filled with clumsy melodrama, with the prose trending a deep, bewildering purple: "The acme of all love was abandonment, the only point at which we would fulfill the promise of immortality, to persist in our love for those who are absent, into oblivion."
An intriguing premise marred by awkward pacing and an overwrought style.