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Dragonfish: A Novel Paperback – August 2, 2016
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“[A] strong first novel for its risk taking, for its collapsing of genre, for its elegant language and its mediation of a history that is integral to post-1960s American identity yet often ignored. . . . Above all, Tran’s novel is a refreshing and entertaining story.” (Chris Abani - New York Times)
“A superb debut novel . . . that takes the noir basics and infuses them with the bitters of loss and isolation peculiar to the refugee and immigrant tale.” (Maureen Corrigan - Fresh Air)
“[A] hard-hitting debut novel…. [Suzy is] a mystery no one can solve, particularly the people turning all their efforts in the wrong direction. But while their efforts aren’t fruitful, they’re absorbing. And they speak to the way everyone is a bit of an enigma to other people, no matter how many words they put into the effort to be understood.” (NPR Books)
“A sophisticated mystery anchored in one woman’s quest to make amends with the daughter she abandoned, Dragonfish delicately capsizes our notions of what it means to long for escape from the prisons of our own making.” (Ploughshares)
“Everything is perfect there, those quiet little garnishes of idiosyncratic detail are gifts, both amusing and full of character. Tran’s novel is filled with this sort of inspired meticulousness, and reading it is to enter its world.” (Barnes & Noble Review)
“Like Gatsby, the characters in Tran’s novel yearn for something unattainable. . . . This and the feeling that there will only be a tragic end are what elevate Dragonfish beyond its bookstore genre.” (Los Angeles Review of Books)
“Nuanced and elegiac. . . . Vu Tran takes a strikingly poetic and profoundly evocative approach to the conventions of crime fiction in this supple, sensitive, wrenching, and suspenseful tale of exile, loss, risk, violence, and the failure of love.” (Donna Seaman - Booklist)
“[A] most enjoyable mystery, from its distinct, dazzling premise all the way to its satisfying conclusion.” (Publishers Weekly, Starred review)
“Tran’s splendid first novel will quickly engage you with its suspenseful story. . . . Dark and gripping. . . . Dragonfish will keep you reading, out of fear that if you stop, you will never truly surface.” (Anne Morris - Dallas Morning News)
About the Author
Vu Tran, winner of a Whiting Award recognizing “exceptional talent and promise,” teaches creative writing at the University of Chicago.
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Top Customer Reviews
Vu Tran really hit the ground running with this novel. Keep it up, bro.
Suzy’s real name was Hung, but Robert renamed her Suzy.
Four months later, Robert and Suzy married.
Reading this novel was like watching an unconventional marriage fall apart. I think some of the main causes of disturbance were background differences, including interest incompatibilities, and mental illness. One of the greatest blocks in this marriage were emotional maturity. Robert linked himself with Suzy’s world, eating her foods, absorbed himself in her culture, although he disliked it.
Suzy had placed crucifixes in every room in their home and insisted Robert attend church with her. She seemed to have no interest in Robert’s world. She never asked about his deceased parents. She showed no interest in his taste in foods or his hobbies. She rejected their having children.
While married to Robert, Suzy often wandered off at night, alone, in her night clothes. She would return smelling of cigarette smoke and alcohol, her bare feet soiled with dirt. Once, Robert found her in their yard sleeping on the ground beneath a tree.
After eight years of marriage, longsuffering Robert, who had taken Suzy’s bouts of silence, temper tantrums, verbal, and physical abuse, in a brief fit of rage, battered her during an argument. Although he was apologetic, the next day, Suzy left Robert and filed for divorce.
Suzy then moved to Las Vegas, Nevada. There she met and married Vietnamese born, Sonny, a brutal man, considered a high stakes gambler and crime boss.
Robert showed up in Las Vegas to rescue Suzy after being told by her friend Sonny pushed her down a flight of stairs.
Sonny’s son and his henchman beat up Robert and sent him on his way. Instead, Robert drove to Sonny and Suzy’s home. There, Robert attacked Sonny, which was caught on tape.
Four months later Suzy is missing with five-hundred thousand dollars. Robert is blackmailed into returning to Las Vegas to find Suzy. If Robert refused, they would have exposed the tape to police officials on his job.
This is where some of the secrets come out about Suzy’s past in Vietnam that includes a child, which she wrote about in her red leather diary.
Suzy’s character experienced a great deal of internal conflict, she suffered nightmares and hallucinations. She wanted to be unfettered, and with Robert, she had freedom to do as she pleased until their fight and breakup.
With Sonny, Suzy was watched constantly by his assistants, and her every move taped.
Robert’s character appeared unimpressive and not very dimensional.
I couldn’t connect with any of the characters. However, I think the offspring of Sonny and Suzy would have been more interesting characters.
All in all, the relationship of Robert and Suzy are real life characters. There is not always warm, deep, permanent attachment in a marriage.
Robert is an Oakland, California cop. A bachelor most of his life, he eventually married a Vietnamese woman who had resettled in the US in the aftermath of the post-Vietnam war US refugee program. She had been married before but that husband, in a way, had not survived the effects of reeducation. She, also never escaped her past. Seeking comfort in religion, she also seemed to communicate with ghosts of her past, such as her husband, although there are others. Robert and Suzy’s marriage did not survive. I got the impression that Robert never tried to learn Vietnamese, never asked Suzy about her past, and was just waiting for Suzy to assimilate. Very lazy of Robert.
After eight years of an increasingly dysfunctional relationship descending into violence, Suzy disappears. Lots of lonesome time for Robert until he hears that Suzy has resurfaced in Las Vegas with the Vietnamese name of Hong and a new husband named Sonny. Robert also hears that Sonny got violent with Suzy. Revenge, probably more accurately put as jealousy, leads Robert to Las Vegas where he attempts to beat Sonny in return. This is not as easy as originally planned since Robert is first beaten by Sonny’s son. This is the first confusing part. I am up to chapter four and I don’t really know the son’s name. He was first called Sonny, then Sonny Jr. (an improvement) and finally Johnny. He will keep the name Johnny to the end of the story.
Sonny and son Johnny and the related sibling Victor are the core of a (possibly) crime family. Murder seems to be accepted, but there is no gang war over territory. Most of the crimes committed seem to be in the nature of avenging old scores and maintaining honor. This is the area where the novel becomes confusing and resorts to a lot of stereotypes (its always difficult to tell the age of Asians [loc106]) and pseudo-philosophy. Many of the stretches of philosophical thought are conveniently highlighted in the Kindle edition as popular highlights. A lot of these come from the mind of Suzy/Hong and can be chalked up to her frequent depression. Other thoughts offered by Robert are his reflections on Suzy/Hong’s depression. I found most of them to be either clichés or complex twisted thought that contributed little to the character development of those who produced them.
I would never reveal the ending; that would be a spoiler. In this case no one else will reveal the ending either. It is an enjoyable read for those who enjoy examining cross cultural understanding. The idea of a Vietnamese explaining a westerner’s thoughts and attitudes in dealing with Vietnamese culture is interesting.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
ultimate US environments, you will yawn a lot and ask...Read more