I read these books for Elle Magazine’s March 2012 Readers’ Prize.
The Reeducation of Cherry Truong by Aimee Phan (St. Martin’s)
Phan takes readers from Vietnam to Malaysia and then to France and Los Angeles in this sweeping, heart-wrenching tale. The Truong and Vo families leave their war-ravaged homeland for better lives but find themselves separated from each other both physically and emotionally. Yet Cherry’s journey to Vietnam to reconnect with her exiled brother evidences how the families are forever bound together. Phan gives readers a story rich in history, showing us that while families might be separated, familial ties remain strong.—Jaime Boler, Laurel, MS
Forgotten Country by Catherine Chung (Riverhead)
In Forgotten Country, first-time novelist Chung skillfully weaves together memory, history, and Korean folk tales to tell us the beautiful story of a family who left Korea for the United States 20 years ago. The father is dying of cancer, while the younger sister has cut off all ties to her family. Seeking cutting-edge cancer treatment, what is left of the family goes back to Korea. In the country they left behind all those years ago, the whole family finally reconnects and slowly learns to forgive each other for past misdeeds. Chung shows us that one person can be different people in different countries; one’s homeland, one’s birthplace, should never be a “forgotten country.”—Jaime Boler, Laurel, MS
Other Waters by Eleni N. Gage
Gage’s novel is like a fictional version of Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat Pray Love. In Other Waters, Maya undergoes a life-changing journey that takes her from Manhattan to India. I love how believable the tale is and how Maya successfully navigates two cultures in creating a new identity for herself.—Jaime Boler, Laurel, MS