From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. Linda Hammerick has a special yet burdensome gift--she experiences words as tastes. Linda's boyfriends' names, for example, remind her of orange sherbet and parsnips; her own name is mint-flavored. Depending on the speaker, listening, for Linda, can be delicious or distasteful. In the first part of the book, Linda interacts with her family: she dances with her eccentric uncle Baby Harper, whose sing-song voice limits her "tasting his words"; she faced off with her acerbic grandmother, Iris; deals with her adored father, Thomas, and her unsympathetic mother, Deanne, whose infatuation with a neighborhood boy leaves Linda vulnerable to his predatory advances. Woven into Linda's story is the history of her home state, North Carolina--slaveholding days, the first airplane flight, and local Indian lore. But when a sudden tragedy brings Linda back home from New York City, she finds answers to a life that has been made up of half-finished sentences, as the secret of her origins and the clandestine histories of those around her are revealed one by one. Truong's (Book of Salt) mesmerizing prose beautifully captures Linda's taste-saturated world, and her portrait of a broken family's secretive pockets and genuine moments of connection is affecting.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Although Bitter in the Mouth
may not, ultimately, engage the reader as much as the lyrical Book of Salt
, critics agreed that Truong's second novel is original, poetic, and compelling in its own right. Complex and layered, it is a coming-of-age tale about the search for identity, family, and human connection. Yet reviewers expressed reservations about the very parts that make the novel unique. While some thought the premise (synesthesia) clever, a few found Linda's dialogue labored, distracting, and self-conscious. Others felt that the revelation of Linda's past is contrived and comes too late in the narrative. Still, wrote the Miami Herald
, "On a second encounter, even if less remarkable than the first, it's still a rare, refreshing palate--one to savor."