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The Mountains Sing
by Que Mai Phan Nguyen

Published: 2020-03-17
Hardcover : 352 pages
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“An epic account of Viet Nam’s painful 20th century history, both vast in scope and intimate in its telling . . . Moving and riveting.” —VIET THANH NGUYEN, author of The Sympathizer, winner of the Pulitzer Prize

With the epic sweep of Min Jin Lee’s Pachinko or Yaa Gyasi’s ...
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Introduction

“An epic account of Viet Nam’s painful 20th century history, both vast in scope and intimate in its telling . . . Moving and riveting.” —VIET THANH NGUYEN, author of The Sympathizer, winner of the Pulitzer Prize

With the epic sweep of Min Jin Lee’s Pachinko or Yaa Gyasi’s Homegoing and the lyrical beauty of Vaddey Ratner’s In the Shadow of the Banyan, The Mountains Sing tells an enveloping, multigenerational tale of the Tr?n family, set against the backdrop of the Vi?t Nam War. Tr?n Di?u Lan, who was born in 1920, was forced to flee her family farm with her six children during the Land Reform as the Communist government rose in the North. Years later in Hà N?i, her young granddaughter, H??ng, comes of age as her parents and uncles head off down the H? Chí Minh Trail to fight in a conflict that tore not just her beloved country, but her family apart.

Vivid, gripping, and steeped in the language and traditions of Vi?t Nam, The Mountains Sing brings to life the human costs of this conflict from the point of view of the Vietnamese people themselves, while showing us the true power of kindness and hope.

The Mountains Sing is celebrated Vietnamese poet Nguy?n Phan Qu? Mai’s first novel in English.

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Excerpt

Fireflies hovered. They looked like burning eyes of devils who’d taken over our world. I blinked, but the darkness was too deep for me to see. I wriggled, but the ropes that tied my hands and legs were too strong. I sobbed but was dried of tears. ... view entire excerpt...

Discussion Questions

1. There are many major historical events featured in the novel. How much did you know about these events before you read The Mountains Sing? Did the story show you a new side to any events you were already familiar with?

2. War stories are often told from a male perspective. In The Mountains Sing, H??ng and Grandma Di?u Lan take turns narrating their stories to us. How might this be a different novel if it had male narrators? Why do you think the author chose to have women and girls tell the story instead?

3. Which character did you feel the most sympathetic towards? The least? Is that different from which character you like the most and least, and why?

4. In addition to descriptions of war and pain, The Mountains Sing features many descriptions of gorgeous landscapes, interesting city sights, and delicious foods. Were there any locations described that you would like to visit? Any foods that you would like to try?

5. In The Mountains Sing, Vietnamese names and words appear with their full diacritical marks. For Vietnamese speakers, these marks are critical to interpreting meaning: for example, the words ma, m?, má, mà, m?, and mã all have separate meanings (ghost, grave, mother, but, young rice plant, and horse, respectively). Nonetheless, it is unusual for an American novel to include the marks. Did their inclusion affect your reading experience? How?

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