Bitter in the Mouth
By Monique Truong
(Random House Trade Paperbacks, Paperback, 9780812981322, 320pp.)
Publication Date: August 9, 2011
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Bitter in the Mouth is a brilliant, virtuosic novel about a young woman’s search for identity and the true meaning of family.
“What I know about you, little girl, would break you in two” are the prophetic last words that Linda Hammerick’s grandmother says to her. Growing up in small-town North Carolina in the 1970s and ’80s, Linda already knows that she is profoundly different from everyone else, including the members of her own family. She can “taste” words. In this and in other ways, her body is a mystery to her. Linda’s awkward girlhood is nonetheless enlivened and emboldened by her dancing great-uncle Harper, and Kelly, her letter-writing best friend. Linda makes her way north to college and then to New York City, trying her best to leave her past behind her like “a pair of shoes that no longer fit.” But when a family tragedy compels her to return home, Linda uncovers the startling secrets of her past. Monique Truong’s acclaimed novel questions our assumptions about what it means to be a family and to be a friend, to be foreign and to be familiar, to be connected to and disconnected from our bodies, our histories, ourselves.
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Monique Truong was born in Saigon and currently lives in New York City. Her first novel, The Book of Salt, was a New York Times Notable Book. It won the New York Public Library Young Lions Fiction Award, the 2003 Bard Fiction Prize, the Stonewall Book Award-Barbara Gittings Literature Award, and the 7th Annual Asian American Literary Award, and was a finalist for the Lambda Literary Award and Britain’s Guardian First Book Award. She is the recipient of the PEN American Robert Bingham Fellowship, and was awarded the Hodder Fellowship at Princeton for 2007-2008.
“A coming-of-age tale with a magical ferocity that recalls Doctorow and Nabokov.”—Jayne Anne Phillips, author of Lark & Termite
“A beautifully written, complex story of self-discovery.”—The Boston Globe
“Truong explores—and explodes—[her characters’] secrets at a captivating pace. . . . Reminiscent of The Heart is a Lonely Hunter.”—The New York Times Book Review
“A searing exploration of intimacy and enmity, language, betrayal, and silence, Bitter in the Mouth is as dazzling as it is deeply emotional. It also has the best twist in its tail—ever.”—Parade