A stunning debut novel about an immigrant Vietnamese family who settles in New Orleans and struggles to remain connected to one another as their lives are inextricably reshaped.
When Huong arrives in New Orleans with her...Read More
When Huong arrives in New Orleans with her two young sons, she is jobless, homeless, and worried about her husband, Cong, who remains in Vietnam. As she and her boys begin to settle in to life in America, she continues to send letters and tapes back to Cong, hopeful that they will be reunited and her children will grow up with a father.
But with time, Huong realizes she will never see her husband again. While she attempts to come to terms with this loss, her sons, Tuan and Binh, grow up in their absent father's shadow, haunted by a man and a country trapped in their memories and imaginations. As they push forward, the three adapt to life in America in different ways: Huong gets involved with a Vietnamese car salesman who is also new in town; Tuan tries to connect with his heritage by joining a local Vietnamese gang; and Binh, now going by Ben, embraces his adopted homeland and his burgeoning sexuality. Their search for identity--as individuals and as a family--threatens to tear them apart, until disaster strikes the city they now call home and they are suddenly forced to find a new way to come together and honor the ties that bind them.
ERIC NGUYEN earned an MFA in Creative Writing from McNeese State University in Louisiana. He has been awarded fellowships from Lambda Literary, Voices of Our Nation Arts (VONA), and the Tin House Writers Workshop. He is the editor in chief of diaCRITICS.org. He lives in Washington, DC. Things We Lost to the Water is his first novel.
"Nguyen’s narrative strikes a very elusive balance: vast in scale and ambition, while luscious and inviting — enchanting, really — in its intimacy." - New York Times Book Review
"Eric Nguyen's masterful debut novel Things We Lost to the Water is a deeply engaging, heart-rending look at a family of Vietnamese refugees struggling to survive and how the choices they make as individuals have ripple effects on each other." - Suzanne Van Atten, Atlanta Journal-Constitution
"Things We Lost to the Water introduces an exquisite new voice in author Eric Nguyen; his debut novel is a luminous, balletic portrayal of an immigrant Vietnamese family in the US . . . Nguyen navigates their multiple perspectives with dexterity and emotional clarity, aching but never maudlin. I loved every page." - Arianna Rebolini, BuzzFeed
"I was captivated. The writing is absolutely gorgeous . . . The voice is strong and this is a powerful novel . . . Well worth a read. Really enjoyed." - Roxane Gay, via Goodreads
"This is an elemental book, of water, for sure, but also of other elements of life, including love and loss. Vietnamese people know all about these elements, coming from a country whose entire length is bordered by a sea, and from a history saturated with loss. Love is one element that has enabled their survival, but sometimes at a cost. Eric Nguyen's powerful novel ripples and gleams with the unpredictable flow and surge of love, which, like water, can drown us or sustain us. From a war to a hurricane, from an ocean to a flood, Things We Lost to the Water proves itself to be a novel that sustains us." - Viet Thanh Nguyen, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Sympathizer
"Exquisitely well-written, Things We Lost to the Water is a tender, haunting story of loss, love, family and survival. A moving and powerful debut." - Charles Yu, National Book Award-winning author of Interior Chinatown
"While the story arc might sound familiar--other-side-of-the-world refugees who endure challenging lives in the U.S.--Nguyen's gentle precision nevertheless produces an extraordinary debut with undeniable resonance." - Terry Hong, Booklist
"Debut author Nguyen movingly portrays the way adopted homes can become as cherished and familiar as ancestral ones . . . but also the truth that new loves can never quite heal old wounds . . . An engrossing, prismatic portrait of first- and second-generation Vietnamese American life." - Kirkus Reviews
"Nguyen's captivating debut spans three decades to chronicle the lives of a Vietnamese refugee family . . . Nguyen keeps a keen eye on their struggles and triumphs, crafting an expansive portrayal of New Orleans's Vietnamese community under the ever-present threat of flooding, and the novel builds to a haunting conclusion during Hurricane Katrina. Readers will find this gripping and illuminating." - Publishers Weekly