Synopses & Reviews
An instant New York Times Bestseller!
Longlisted for the 2019 National Book Award for Fiction, the Carnegie Medal in Fiction, the 2019 Aspen Words Literacy Prize, and the PEN/Hemingway Debut Novel Award
Shortlisted for the 2019 Center for Fiction First Novel Prize
Winner of the 2019 New England Book Award for Fiction!
Named one of the most anticipated books of 2019 by Vulture, Entertainment Weekly, Buzzfeed, Los Angeles Times, Boston Globe, Oprah.com, Huffington Post, The A.V. Club, Nylon, The Week, The Rumpus, The Millions, The Guardian, Publishers Weekly, and more.
"A lyrical work of self-discovery that's shockingly intimate and insistently universal...Not so much briefly gorgeous as permanently stunning." —Ron Charles, The Washington Post
Poet Ocean Vuong's debut novel is a shattering portrait of a family, a first love, and the redemptive power of storytelling
On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous is a letter from a son to a mother who cannot read. Written when the speaker, Little Dog, is in his late twenties, the letter unearths a family's history that began before he was born — a history whose epicenter is rooted in Vietnam — and serves as a doorway into parts of his life his mother has never known, all of it leading to an unforgettable revelation. At once a witness to the fraught yet undeniable love between a single mother and her son, it is also a brutally honest exploration of race, class, and masculinity. Asking questions central to our American moment, immersed as we are in addiction, violence, and trauma, but undergirded by compassion and tenderness, On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous is as much about the power of telling one's own story as it is about the obliterating silence of not being heard.
With stunning urgency and grace, Ocean Vuong writes of people caught between disparate worlds, and asks how we heal and rescue one another without forsaking who we are. The question of how to survive, and how to make of it a kind of joy, powers the most important debut novel of many years.
Named a Best Book of the Year by:
GQ, Kirkus Reviews, Booklist, Library Journal, TIME, Esquire, The Washington Post, Apple, Good Housekeeping, The New Yorker, The New York Public Library, Elle.com, The Guardian, The A.V. Club, NPR, Lithub, Entertainment Weekly, Vogue.com, The San Francisco Chronicle, Mother Jones, Vanity Fair, The Wall Street Journal Magazine and more!
"A raw and incandescently written foray into fiction by one of our most gifted poets." Kirkus (Starred Review)
"Casting a truly literary spell, Vuong's tale of language and origin, beauty and the power of story, is an enrapturing first novel." Booklist (Starred Review)
"An epistolary ¬masterpiece...Fearless, revelatory, extraordinary." Library Journal (Starred Review)
"Sometimes a writer comes along and stops your breath. I'm reading On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous and there is so little air moving through my body as I read. When writing is this good, who needs air?" Jacqueline Woodson, author of Red at the Bone
"This is one of the best novels I've ever read. I always want my favorite poets to write novels and here it's happened. Ocean Vuong is a master. This book a masterpiece. On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous is an ode to loss and struggle, to being a Vietnamese American, to Hartford, Connecticut, and it's a compassionate epistolary ode to a mother who may or may not know how to read. I dog-eared so many pages the book almost collapsed — I almost did." Tommy Orange, author of There There
"On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous will be described — rightly — as luminous, shattering, urgent, necessary. But the word I keep circling back to is raw: that's how powerful the emotions here are, and how you'll feel after reading it — scoured down to bone. With a poet's precision, Ocean Vuong examines whether putting words to one's experience can bridge wounds that span generations, and whether it's ever possible to be truly heard by those we love most." Celeste Ng, author of Everything I Never Told You and Little Fires Everywhere
"A bruised, breathtaking love letter never meant to be sent. A powerful testimony to magic and loss. A marvel." Marlon James, author of Black Leopard, Red Wolf
"This book — gorgeous is right there in the title — finds incredible, aching beauty in the deep observation of love in many forms. Ocean Vuong's debut novel contains all the power of his poetry, and I finished the book knowing that we are seeing only the very beginning of his truly magnificent talent." Emma Straub, author of Modern Lovers and The Vacationers
"Disarmingly frank, raw in subject matter but polished in style and language, On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous reveals the strengths and limitations of human connection and the importance of speaking your truth." BookPage
"Ocean Vuong runs up against the limits of language — this book is addressed to a mother who cannot read it — and expands our sense of what literature can make visible, thinkable, felt across borders and generations and genres. This is a courageous, embodied inquiry into the tangle of colonial and personal histories. It is also a gorgeous argument for astonishment over irony — for the transformative possibilities of love." Ben Lerner, author of Leaving the Atocha Station and 10:04
"One is not often given the chance to apply words like ‘brilliant’ and ‘remarkable’ to any novels, certainly not first novels. Thank you, Ocean Vuong, for this brilliant and remarkable first novel.” Michael Cunningham, author of The Hours
About the Author
"[On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous] is one of the most beautiful novels I have ever read, a literary marvel and a work of extraordinary humanity. It is about who we are, and how we find ourselves in our bodies, in each other, in countries, on this earth: truly a masterpiece." Max Porter, Grief is the Thing with Feathers