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Flesh Hardcover – June 15, 2012

27 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

Review by Serena Agusto-Cox:

savvyverseandwit.com/2012/06/flesh-by-khanh-ha.html

Review

In this dark, violent, and poetic saga, with cinematic vignettes that make it read like a screenplay, characters are not who they seem. While this makes for a thrilling finale, what lingers . . . is Ha's descriptive prose. --Publishers Weekly

Set mostly in turn-of-the-20th-century Hanoi, this debut novel begins and ends with gruesome beheadings. Bearing witness to both executions is Tai, a poor teenage village boy quickly forced into manhood. In an effort to reclaim his betrayed bandit father's severed head and finance an auspicious burial, Tai spends the next year on an odyssey about his father, their troubled family, and his own unsure self. Indentured to a geomancer who sells his contract to a wealthy Chinese merchant, Tai glimpses the backstreet Hanoi life of opium dens, desperate coolies, and the lawless rich and has his first experience of falling in love.... Readers who enjoy epic sagas set in faraway lands will find absorbing satisfaction here. --Library Journal

"Read Flesh to lose yourself in a vividly-described colonial Vietnam, with its poverty and hopelessness, its people’s industrious nature at work to better their lives and the lives of those dear to them, all wrapped up in beautiful prose." --Drey's Library

Flesh, Khanh Ha's debut novel, is almost dreamlike. A dream in that early hours of a hot morning where you are still in between sleeping and waking up. Ha is a talented writer; he does a wonderful job setting the dark, yet poetic, mood and a fine job describing settings in vivid, smells, colorful imagery. --Seattle Post Intelligencer

FLESH brings Vietnam – at around the turn of the last century – to life. Life was hard, and this book does not spare us. The book opens with a scene . . . an execution. Ha's powers of description are good, and we are brought into the scene and witness this act. I would recommend this book. Part of what I (and many of you, I suspect) love about reading is being whisked off to an exotic place for an adventure. And FLESH fills the bill! --LibbyBooksBlog

A lush, poetic tale, takes readers on a journey far beneath the surface of a land most have only glimpsed superficially in clichéd Hollywood films. . . .readers willing to venture off the beaten path to an unfamiliar land will find great pleasure exploring Khanh Ha's —Book Reviews by Elizabeth White

The story is a sensual one. . . . The prose of Khanh Ha’s debut is laden with sensory details that pull readers into multi-dimensional scenes. . . . The outstanding element of this novel is the solid invitation extended to readers, to enter this world which Khanh Ha has created in Flesh.--Buried in Print

This book was really something to read!. . . Somewhere along the way, it broke my heart. . . . The author did not sugar coat this story one bit! It is so unlike anything I have ever read. . . . It blew my mind towards the end and I would love to know what you think!--Mary Bearden (Mary's Cup of Tea Blog)

Unique. The ending was amazing. . . . Ha has the writing skills to make the reader imagine every scene he sets, each mood, every setting. The prose felt poetic at times. Author Khanh Ha is truly a talented writer. I enjoyed the novel and it sits on my shelf as a DARN GOOD READ.—Reading Rendezvous Reviewz

The realism of the book certainly made an impression on me. . . . Ha is a master at detailed descriptions to the point that you can see it happening the way the author intended you to. The brutality in the book was descriptive but not to the point that I had to "look away."—Ruth Hill, My Devotional Thoughts

Review

"Flesh Ha, Khanh. Flesh. Black Heron. Set mostly in turn-of-the-20th-century Hanoi, this debut novel begins and ends with gruesome beheadings. Bearing witness to both executions is Tài, a poor teenage village boy quickly forced into manhood. In an effort to reclaim his betrayed bandit father's severed head and finance an auspicious burial, Tài spends the next year on an odyssey about his father, their troubled family, and his own unsure self. Indentured to a geomancer who sells his contract to a wealthy Chinese merchant, Tài glimpses the backstreet Hanoi life of opium dens, desperate coolies, and the lawless rich--and has his first experience of falling in love, which incites his own vengeful violence. VERDICT Written in a cowboyish twang filled with "yup," "ain't," "em," and "gonna"--possibly meant to simulate the vernacular of the day--the novel never quite loses its anachronistic feel. One more edit might have trimmed some of the meandering passages and extraneous characters, but the fast-paced story pushes briskly to the finish. Readers who enjoy epic sagas set in faraway lands will find absorbing satisfaction here.--Terry Hong, Smithsonian BookDragon, Washington, DC Library Journal, March 15, 2012"-- LIBRARY JOURNAL

"Vietnam-born Ha's beautifully described yet murkily executed first novel, set in his native country at the turn of the 20th century, opens with an infamous yet respected bandit being beheaded in front of his wife and their two young sons. This beginning casts a pall over the tale as Tai, the eldest son, embarks on a far-reaching journey to retrieve his father's skull, find a suitable burial site, and seek revenge on the man who betrayed his father's trust. Through a series of twists and turns--some more developed than others--Tai trades two years' service to a wealthy entrepreneur for land on which to bury the father's remains. During that time, Tai loses his heart to Xiaoli, an indentured servant working in an opium den, and will do anything--including holding off on vengeance and killing a French soldier--to protect her. In this dark, violent, and poetic saga, with disjointed cinematic vignettes that make it often read like a screenplay, characters are not who they seem. While this makes for a thrilling finale, what lingers more than the somewhat weak plot is Ha's descriptive prose." (May)--PUBLISHERS WEEKLY
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Black Heron Press; 1 edition (June 15, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0930773888
  • ISBN-13: 978-0930773885
  • Product Dimensions: 5.7 x 1.3 x 8.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (27 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #4,055,363 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Khanh Ha is the author of Flesh (2012, Black Heron Press) and The Demon Who Peddled Longing (2014, Underground Voices). He is a five-time Pushcart nominee, a Best Indie Lit New England nominee, and the recipient of Greensboro Review's 2014 ROBERT WATSON LITERARY PRIZE IN FICTION. His work, The Demon Who Peddled Longing, was honored by Shelf Unbound as a NOTABLE INDIE BOOK.






Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Elizabeth A. White on July 18, 2012
Format: Hardcover
Author Khanh Ha's moody and atmospheric debut novel, Flesh, takes place in Annam (modern-day Vietnam) around the turn of the 20th century and follows several years in the life of Tài, a poor, young villager we meet as he and his family are forced to watch the execution by beheading of his father.

Though Tài's father was a bandit, he was respected amongst his people and his killing places upon Tài, now the eldest male in his family though only an early teen, the obligation of preserving the family's honor. To do so, Tài must accomplish two tasks: seek vengeance upon the man who betrayed his father, and unify his father's skull with his body so that he may properly be laid to rest.

Told in a series of almost dream-like reflections by a now septuagenarian Tài, Flesh follows the brutally fast coming of age Tài is forced to endure as he ventures from his sheltered village life out into a city teaming with exotic sights, sounds, and smells. And dangers, as along the way Tài finds both love and peril, learning that the two often go hand in hand and that everything in life requires a price to be paid.

A lush, poetic tale, Flesh takes readers on a journey far beneath the surface of a land most have only glimpsed superficially in clichéd Hollywood films. And though the dialog and character interactions are at times a bit stilted, that's not what you will ultimately take away from Flesh. Where Khanh Ha excels, and what you will be unable to easily shake, are the deeply evocative descriptions of daily life in Annam.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Man of La Book on July 14, 2012
Format: Hardcover
Flesh by Khanh Ha is a novel tak­ing place in Viet­nam and China. It is a com­ing of age story in a dark time of a young man's life.

Life in Annam (Viet­nam) is hard and ugly. A young boy named Tai wit­nesses the behead­ing of his father, a known ban­dit, and swears to bring back his skull to be buried with his body. On his quest, Tai becomes an inden­tured ser­vant, get involved in the opium trade, meets a girl and learn more and more about the father he hardly knew.

As I read Flesh, Khanh Ha's debut novel, it seemed to me that the story is almost dream­like. A dream in that early hours of a hot morn­ing where you are still in between sleep­ing and wak­ing up. Your con­scious mind taps into your unfor­got­ten but repressed mem­o­ries which lash out in vicious force with unfor­giv­ing sto­ry­lines. While not always bad, these dreams have a ten­dency to shape the day or the week with their bru­tal hon­esty and, quite hon­estly, make excel­lent stories.

The novel starts with a behead­ing and ends with a behead­ing, both of them wit­nessed by the pro­tag­o­nist, Tai, a teenage boy who is thrust into man­hood after his father is exe­cuted (behead­ing #1 - this is not a spoiler, it hap­pens on the first few pages). In accor­dance with his beliefs, Tai goes on a quest to reunite his father's skull with the rest of his body and hence to bring him peace.

Much of the story takes place in 20th Cen­tury Viet­nam, where life is harsh and peo­ple do what it takes to sur­vive. The jour­ney through­out the book, whether through light or dark­ness, is fas­ci­nat­ing, vio­lent and even heart­break­ing. I do think that the book could have been a bit tighter, but that did not dis­tract me from the adventure.

Mr.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By S. Ward on January 10, 2013
Format: Hardcover
At the turn of the 20th century -- in modern day Vietnam -- Tài, a boy of about fifteen, stands with his mother and little brother. They are watching a mass execution. The last victim is Tài's father. This leads the boy on a journey to recover his father's head, without which his daddy will be unable to find peace in the afterlife. Later Tài will be become an indentured servant to two men to procure a proper burial place for his father and another loved one.

Throughout Flesh we see Tài growing up, in a frightening and dangerous world, falling in love, and struggling to take charge of his own fate. His journey takes us from remote forests and villages to city streets and opium dens.

We meet various other characters who populate Tài's world. A man who makes his living as an executioner and must behead his own nephew in the line of duty. A compassionate French Catholic priest who spends as much time listening as preaching, gaining proficiency in the nuances of a complex new language and insight into a different culture. In the process he learns about a rich spiritual tradition, blending Buddhist influence with a long history of praying to ancestors and belief in spirits, genies, and thunder gods. A father and daughter who eke out a living transporting people by boat and selling moonshine. A beautiful young woman who, at age 11, was sold to a merchant to pay her mother's debts. An aging man whose tongue was removed, to protect a wealthy man's secret, and his faithful dog.

These beautiful, tragic stories are woven into a lyrically beautiful, vibrantly descriptive book. Much of the novel moves at a slow pace, as the author recreates this world. It is a world that appears historically accurate yet is completely foreign to me.
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