Andrea’s Pick of the Week: On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong

I was captivated right off the bat by this book’s title and cover. Both are such perfect representations of what is inside: enigmatic, a little dirt-stained, filled with many shades of gray — but mostly, two people holding each other. The book radiates with love flowering in the most difficult circumstances. It’s the story of Little Dog, a boy born in Vietnam who moves to Connecticut with his mother, aunt and grandmother when he is six. In a letter written to his mother, he shares a brutally honest recollection of his coming-of-age in Hartford, grappling with poverty, alienation, and his grandmother’s mental illness, a legacy of the Vietnam War. As a teenager cutting tobacco outside the city, Little Dog meets Trevor, a troubled young man trying to cope with his alcoholic father, and the two begin an affair that forever alters Little Dog.

Raw, tragic, luminous: this is a book that is so beautifully written, with so many layers of meaning, that many passages beg to be read again. The words flow together lightly, like butterflies, but pack a big punch. In fact, the first chapter references butterflies – one of many stunning metaphors Vuong uses to tell his story. He is an award-winning poet, and sections of the book read like prose poems. With its difficult topics, this is not an easy book to read, but it’s utterly mesmerizing. Briefly Gorgeous, indeed.

One thought on “Andrea’s Pick of the Week: On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong

  1. Pingback: The Best Fiction of 2019 | Shelf Life

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