Back to Business Best Books of the Month Valentine's Day Shop Learn more nav_sap_SWP_6M_fly_beacon St Lucia Bose SoundTouch 130 Amazon Fire TV Stick Subscribe & Save Valentine's Day Cards Amazon Gift Card Offer chiraq chiraq chiraq  Amazon Echo Starting at $49.99 Kindle Voyage Shop Now Sale

Format: PaperbackChange
Price:$11.07+ Free shipping with Amazon Prime
Your rating(Clear)Rate this item


There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.

on September 27, 2008
I had heard the name Robert Olen Butler before, mentioned as a Southern writer, which generally connotes a certain way of approaching writing- especially short stories. But, it was as a novelist that I heard his name, this time and the people mentioning his name were not enamored of his novelry. Yet, all claimed that his short fiction was far superior. Back to the connotation. You know it. There are vastly overrated short story writers from the south. William Faulkner's short stories are filled with stereotypes and leaden plots, and typify what is called Southern Grotesque. Then there's Flannery O'Connor, whose short stories make Faulkner's seem like a breeze, and whose Grotesques embody the term. Then there's Eudora Welty's stiflingly rigid, claustrophobic, unpoetic, hit and miss tales of too much of nothing.

So, when I heard Butler's novels ripped and short stories praised I was skeptical, especially considering that the book my wife got from her mother, A Good Scent From A Strange Mountain, was a Pulitzer Prize winner from 1993. Fortunately, I was wrong. While the book is not Pulitzer material, in my opinion, it is still head and shoulders above the crap published today, and certainly better than anything Faulkner, O'Connor, or Welty wrote (at least that I've read of theirs). His stories are about Vietnamese immigrants who settle in the Lake Charles area of Louisiana and range from horrendous to great. Even in the lesser tales there are moments of greatness, but also signs of the opposite tendency- mundanity, mostly brought on by overwriting, in length and sometimes needlessly repetitious filler....At his best Butler gets inside a foreign identity, while at his worst he utterly fails, as in Fairy Tale. Yet, most of the characters are very human, and relatable. That Butler can touch on similar themes in such dissimilar ways shows that he is a true artist with the pen. It will be interesting to see if his other short works of fiction are of as high in overall quality, however erratic, and if the consensus about his longer fiction being far inferior is also true. Nonetheless, A Good Scent From A Strange Mountain is far above most short stories being published. Read it, and learn.
0Comment2 of 3 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on April 22, 2013
I purchased this book out of curiosity and am 100% glad I did as every 'story' told IS a masterpiece in its own. All of the 17 tales are beautifully, skillfully and oetically written. Holds a place of pride on my bookshelves! Don't miss it.
0Comment1 of 1 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on December 31, 2012
Truly masterfully crafted tales, conveying essence and nuance. Each one is an emotional spelunking adventure, deep within the heart. Robert Olen Butler writes as everyone wishes they could!
0Comment1 of 1 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on October 28, 2014
Excellent book! Butler must have lived among these people and been very close to them to be able to speak in their voices so deftly. Very fun read!
0Comment1 of 1 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on September 7, 2010
I enjoyed this collection of stories about Vietnamese living in America after the war. A haunting, vivid protrayal of lives uprooted by conflict.
0Comment1 of 1 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on December 2, 2015
This book of short stories offers pictures of the emigrant experience. The characters are, except for one, Vietnamese. Their experiences in the new land they have chosen, or been cast into by war, are varied and somehow, I felt a sense of foreboding as I read the tales -- always expecting something awful to happen soon. I read the book as a requirement of my Book Group and during the first few stories, was almost ready to put it down. But then I was caught and read it hungrily to the end.

I recommend it highly -- there is such an element of truth in these stories -- I can picture the emigrant to be saying, as he reads -- "Yes that's how ot was -- Mr. Butler has caught it exactly." I can't wait to discuss it with my fellow Book Club readers.
0CommentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on February 12, 2015
Though the book is touted as a “collection of stories about the aftermath of the Vietnam War,” that seems inaccurate to me. It’s a collection of stories about the Vietnamese, often emigrants to the U.S. Sure, many of them have been touched by the war (what’s referred to in Vietnam as the “American War”) but the history of Vietnam is the history of war. With the French, the Japanese, the Chinese as well as the Americans.

Having spent the past few months in Vietnam, I have a greater appreciation for Butler’s work. His descriptions of the countryside, cultural traditions, even food definitely ring true. Through varied stories and believable characters, he has accurately and compassionately depicted the Vietnamese people.
0CommentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on January 2, 2014
Who knew that the tales of Vietnamese individuals living in 1990s Louisiana, USA could be so interesting; or that these stories even exist? Butler's short stories run the range of interest and emotion. Almost all the stories take place in Louisiana or Vietnam. They are mostly "narrated" by Vietnamese individuals. They run the range from poignant to whimsical. My favorites are the story of the young father fearing that his 12 year-old son is become too Americanized, the South Vietnamese spy that needs some New Orleans gris gris to keep his marriage together, and the "Let's Make A Deal" winner who travels to Puerte Vallarta, Mexico to visit the haunts of Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor.
0CommentWas this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on July 20, 2004
This is a work of art. Read it and weep. Read it and touch the soul of the Vietnamese who lost their country and gained their humanity. Read it and savor language at its finest, writing that is poetic and powerful, spare and wispy.

All of the stories are masterful. Some are great ... stories that will offer more light and more meaning with every visit. This is one of the best books of the Vietnam experience -- a literary gift.
0Comment6 of 9 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on November 3, 2003
I would give this wonderful collection of short stories more than 5 if I could. A stunning book made even more stunning by the fact that the writer is non-Vietnamese. You would not think as such; so much does Robert Olen Butler totally immerse himself into the trials and tribulations of a Vietnamese living, loving and suffering on the US shores.
The highlight? 'Mr Green'. I never thought I would shed tears after a story about a cantankerous old parrot, but this one did it for me. Wonderful.
0Comment2 of 3 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse

Send us feedback

How can we make Amazon Customer Reviews better for you?
Let us know here.