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Bitter in the Mouthby Monique Truong
" Monique Truong burst onto the literary scene in 2004 with The Book of Salt, the story of a gay Vietnamese man who becomes the cook for Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas during their years in Paris. By invoking Stein, Truong set the bar high, but the novel was justly hailed as a startlingly assured debut.
Bitter in the Mouth, her follow-up, tells of Linda, a young girl growing up in a dysfunctional family in a small Southern town in the 1970s. It appears at first like a more typical first novel (coming of age, etc), though, as in The Book of Salt, Linda tells her first-person story retrospectively, moving backward and forward in time, which allows a sophisticated perspective and voice." Maya Muir, The Oregonian (Read the entire Oregonian review)
Synopses & Reviews
From Monique Truong, the bestselling and award-winning author of The Book of Salt, comes a brilliant, mesmerizing, beautifully written novel about a young woman’s search for identity and family, as she uncovers the secrets of her past and of history.
Growing up in the small town of Boiling Springs, North Carolina, in the '70’s and '80’s, Linda believes that she is profoundly different from everyone else, including the members of her own family. “What I know about you, little girl, would break you in two” are the cruel, mysterious last words that Linda’s grandmother ever says to her.
Now in her thirties, Linda looks back at her past when she navigated her way through life with the help of her great-uncle Harper, who loves her and loves to dance, and her best friend Kelly, with whom Linda exchanges almost daily letters. The truth about my family was that we disappointed one another. When I heard the word “disappoint,” I tasted toast, slightly burnt.
For as long as she can remember, Linda has experienced a secret sense — she can “taste” words, which have the power to disrupt, dismay, or delight. She falls for names and what they evoke: Canned peaches. Dill. Orange sherbet. Parsnip (to her great regret). But with crushes comes awareness. As with all bodies, Linda’s is a mystery to her, in this and in other ways. Even as Linda makes her way north to Yale and New York City, she still does not know the truth about her past.
Then, when a personal tragedy compels Linda to return to Boiling Springs, she gets to know a mother she never knew and uncovers a startling story of a life, a family. Revelation is when God tells us the truth. Confession is when we tell it to him.
This astonishing novel questions many assumptions — about what it means to be a family and to be a friend, to be foreign and to be familiar, to be connected and to be disconnected — from others and from the past, our bodies, our histories, and ourselves.
"Linda Hammerick has a special yet burdensome gift — she experiences words as tastes. Linda's boyfriends' names, for example, remind her of orange sherbet and parsnips; her own name is mint-flavored. Depending on the speaker, listening, for Linda, can be delicious or distasteful. In the first part of the book, Linda interacts with her family: she dances with her eccentric uncle Baby Harper, whose sing-song voice limits her "tasting his words"; she faced off with her acerbic grandmother, Iris; deals with her adored father, Thomas, and her unsympathetic mother, Deanne, whose infatuation with a neighborhood boy leaves Linda vulnerable to his predatory advances. Woven into Linda's story is the history of her home state, North Carolina — slaveholding days, the first airplane flight, and local Indian lore. But when a sudden tragedy brings Linda back home from New York City, she finds answers to a life that has been made up of half-finished sentences, as the secret of her origins and the clandestine histories of those around her are revealed one by one. Truong's (Book of Salt) mesmerizing prose beautifully captures Linda's taste-saturated world, and her portrait of a broken family's secretive pockets and genuine moments of connection is affecting." Publishers Weekly (Copyright 2010 Reed Business Information.)
"Truong is a gifted storyteller, and in this quietly powerful novel she has created a compelling and unique character." Booklist
"Truong's engaging writing and complex character development almost overcome the deficiencies of this novel, but it is unlikely to touch readers as her debut novel did." Library Journal
The bestselling and award-winning author of The Book of Salt pens a brilliant, mesmerizing, beautifully written novel about a young woman's search for identity and family, as she uncovers the secrets of her past and of history.
About the Author
Monique Truong was born in Saigon and currently lives in New York City. Her first novel, The Book of Salt, was a New York Times Notable Book. It won the New York Public Library Young Lions Fiction Award, the 2003 Bard Fiction Prize, the Stonewall Book Award-Barbara Gittings Literature Award, and the 7th Annual Asian American Literary Award, and was a finalist for the Lambda Literary Award and Britain’s Guardian First Book Award. She is the recipient of the PEN American Robert Bingham Fellowship, and was awarded the Hodder Fellowship at Princeton for 2007-2008.
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