Stitch and Bear

A long-running Irish blog with reviews of the best restaurants in Dublin and throughout Ireland. Some wine and cocktails thrown in for good measure!

Monday, January 25, 2010

Short Girls - Bich Minh Nguyen

A good while back, I reviewed "Free Food for Millionaires" by Min Jin Lee, a book which explored the experiences of a first generation Korean American. I was struck by the parallels between that book and this debut novel from Bich Minh Nguyen. Granted, the former focuses on Korean immigrants and the latter on Vietnamese, but both novels are rich with the struggle of American-born children of immigrants.

This novel centres on two sisters, Van and Linh Luong. Van is the elder daughter, an immigration lawyer, serious and with a marriage in difficulty. Linny is the younger, carefree, working as a cook, and trying to end an affair with a married man. Both sisters are dealing with crises but keep their distance from the other.

At the centre of their lives is their widowed father. He has been obsessed with the short stature of Vietnamese people his whole life and uses all his inventive mind to create the Luong Arm, a device to help shorter people reach items on top shelves. In order to futher his inventions, he decides to become a naturalised citizen of the U.S. and enter a reality TV show for inventors.

It is while begrudgingly attending to their father that the two sisters realise that they are both at crossroads in their lives. Drawing on each other in way that they haven't done since childhood, they find the strength to start living new lives.

Nguyen has written a simple novel that somehow captures the readers' interest. The two sisters are real characters who will resonate with a lot of female readers. The author switches deftly between the present and the past to tell this tale, but maybe the characters realness is their failing, as somehow this novel fails to linger to any great degree.

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