Longlisted for the Scotiabank Giller Prize
The perfect complement to the exquisitely wrought novels Ru and Mãn, in Vi Canada Reads winner Kim Thúy explores the lives, loves and struggles of Vietnamese refugees as they reinvent themselves in new lands.
The daughter of an enterprising mother and a wealthy, spoiled father who never had to grow up, Vi was the youngest of their four children and the only girl. They gave her a name that meant “precious, tiny one,” destined to be cosseted and protected, the family’s little treasure. But the Vietnam War destroys life as they’ve known it. Vi, along with her mother and brothers, manages to escape—but her father stays behind, leaving a painful void as the rest of the family must make a new life for themselves in Canada.
While her family puts down roots, life has different plans for Vi. Taken under the wing of Hà, a worldly family friend, and her diplomat lover, Vi tests personal boundaries and crosses international ones, letting the winds of life buffet her. From Saigon to Montreal, from Suzhou to Boston to the fall of the Berlin Wall, she is witness to the immensity of geography, the intricate fabric of humanity, the complexity of love, the infinite possibilities before her. Ever the quiet observer, somehow Vi must find a way to finally take her place in the world.
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Penkov’s teeming stories accomplish in phrases what lesser writers take chapters to convey. . . . A collection of triumphs. – Susan Salter Reynolds, Los Angeles Times
A grandson tries to buy Lenin’s corpse on eBay for his Communist grandfather. A failed wunderkind steals a golden cross from an Orthodox church. Every five years, a boy meets his cousin (the love of his life) in the river that divides their village into east and west. These are Miroslav Penkov’s strange, unexpectedly moving visions of his home country, Bulgaria, and they are the stories that make up this beguiling and deeply felt debut. Animated by Penkov’s unmatched eye for the absurd, East of the West is a brilliant portrait of a country with its own compass.
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