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The Reeducation of Cherry Truong: A Novel by…

The Reeducation of Cherry Truong: A Novel

by Aimee Phan

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There is so much about this novel that I loved, I hardly know where to begin. I was lucky enough to hear Ms. Phan read during my final MFA residency at Sierra Nevada College in Lake Tahoe this summer. I don't recall now if she read from this novel or another, but I knew from that reading that hers was writing I would greatly enjoy (and learn from) and this novel didn't disappoint.

I try not to include spoilers in my reviews because I hate that, so this review is shorter than I might otherwise write. This is a saga of a Vietnamese family and I was instantly drawn in by the strong characters. It was one of those rare novels wherein the characters are so well crafted that in my mind they are living, breathing people and I was really sad to have to let them go at the end of the novel. The language was lovely and the story seamless. It was truly a joy to read, I only wish it had been longer. The only difficulty I had with it was knowing that I was likely mispronouncing names and I wouldn't want that to happen if these were people I actually knew--they felt that real to me. But that says more about my ignorance than the writing.

Bottom line: Absolutely read this.
( )
  Melynn1104 | Jun 28, 2017 |
This novel is a multi-generational and multi-point of view story of a family of Vietnamese immigrants, half of whom go to Paris and half of whom go to Orange County, California, after the fall of Saigon to the communist regime.
When I was in high school I went through a Vietnam war phase and so I have read a ton of stories about the war and the country from an American point of view, but less so from the view of the Vietnamese people. I really enjoyed this opportunity to see the other side.
I liked that although at first the different points of view seemed fractured, that as the book went along it became clear that each of the characters had information that led to a whole at the end. I also thought it was interesting to see the contrast of how France and the U.S. exerted different influences on the different branches of the family.
The only draw back, I think, was that the loose ends seemed to wrap up too neatly at the end. I think the story would have been more powerful if there was a bit more mystery. However, I found this to be an engrossing read that brought me to new and interesting places. ( )
  elmoelle | Aug 9, 2013 |
The story is compelling (it's a myriad of stories pieced together)--I wanted to know what were the secrets and precursors. At many points, the writing is fluid and beautiful in a clause or in a sentence. But I found the tone and style of writing to be choppy; the movement jerks along. I couldn't pinpoint any technical reasons for this but it has something to do with how writing, rhythm and tone/mood occur and work together. The flashbacks and shifts in perspectives (or characters) were not the reason for the book's jarring feel.

I did find some of the characters' maninpulations farfetched or perhaps it was that so much drama/melodrama and crises happened within one family or the two families connected by marriage. In fact, a set of aunts-uncles and their children on both the Truong and the Vo side could have easily been removed or at least diminished in print to focus and refine the development of the main characters. I would have wanted to have liked at least one character but I didn't although I was neutral, at best, about Cherry. ( )
  ming.l | Mar 31, 2013 |
Generally speaking, the Vietnamese families who came to the United States at the close of the tragic war in that country have, as a group, done well here. Their work ethic and devotion to education meant that most of them and their children would achieve financial security in remarkably short order. Easily overlooked, however, is what it was like for whole families forced to leave behind everything but what they could carry with them. Aimee Phan’s The Reeducation of Cherry Truong tells exactly what it was like for two of those families.

Spanning three generations and three countries (Vietnam, France, and the United States), The Reeducation of Cherry Truong is the story of interrelated families forever split because of a decision made by one man. Cherry (pronounced like the fruit) Truong, having grown up in Little Saigon, California, does not know what happened all those years ago, but her efforts to convince her brother to return to California will finally expose her family’s secrets. Under the leadership of Cherry’s maternal grandmother, Cherry and her cousins are living quite comfortably in California and have promising futures. Now, however, her grandmother worries that some of her weaker grandchildren are looking for shortcuts to the easy life.

Things have not gone quite as well in Paris for Cherry’s paternal grandparents and her uncles but, there too, her cousins are preparing themselves for what they hope will be brighter futures. Sadly, her grandfather is suffering from Alzheimer’s now, one of her aunts is unstable, and her grandmother has discovered a family secret on her own. After visits to Paris and Vietnam, Cherry Truong’s reeducation will be done and she will understand the full impact of the choice her grandfather made all those years ago.

The Reeducation of Cherry Truong is about secrets and the destruction they can cause, but along the way, it offers genuine insights into family life in Vietnam both during and after the war. Too, despite the fact that few of the book’s characters are especially likable, it is difficult not to admire what the two families achieve for their children. Particularly touching is the ever-widening generational gap that becomes obvious as the first generation immigrants struggle to maintain the old ways that seem less and less important to each succeeding generation.

Readers should, from the beginning, refer to the two family trees offered at the beginning of the book. Ms. Phan uses a series of old letters and flashbacks to several different points in time (and to all three countries mentioned earlier) to tell her story. Paying attention up front to the various relationships will make it all much easier to keep track of - and will provide the reader with a much more rewarding experience.

Rated at: 4.0 ( )
  SamSattler | Jul 11, 2012 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0312322682, Hardcover)

Cherry Truong’s parents have exiled her wayward older brother from their Southern California home, sending him to Vietnam to live with distant relatives.  Determined to bring him back, twenty-one-year-old Cherry travels to their homeland and finds herself on a journey to uncover her family’s decades-old secrets—hidden loves, desperate choices, and lives ripped apart by the march of war and currents of history.

The Reeducation of Cherry Truong tells the story of two fierce and unforgettable families, the Truongs and the Vos: their harrowing escape from Vietnam after the war, the betrayal that divided them, and the stubborn memories that continue to bind them years later, even as they come to terms with their hidden sacrifices and bitter mistakes. Kim-Ly, Cherry’s grandmother, once wealthy and powerful in Vietnam, now struggles to survive in Little Saigon, California without English or a driver’s license. Cherry’s other grandmother Hoa, whose domineering husband has developed dementia, discovers a cache of letters from a woman she thought had been left behind. As Cherry pieces their stories together, she uncovers the burden of her family’s love and the consequences of their choices.

Set in Vietnam, France, and the United States, Aimee Phan’s sweeping debut novel reveals a family still yearning for reconciliation, redemption, and a place to call home.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:13:58 -0400)

When her brother is exiled to live with distant relatives in Vietnam, a young woman journeys to her family's homeland to bring him back and uncovers mysteries about secret loves, desperate choices, and the human consequences of war.

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