I finished this novel by the poet, Ocean Vuong, yesterday evening. It’s styled as a communication addressed to the narrator’s mother, and the reader can rely on the pronoun “you” as referring to her, a woman born in Vietnam during the war. This is not solely a mother/son story, however. Other personal relationships of the narrator equal or exceed–exceed, I think–the mother/son relationship: grandmother and friend/lover.
The back cover of this book is filled with “Advance Praise for On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous” and yet Vuong writes this in a section of the book that moves into more poetry than prose:
“They will want you to succeed, but never more than them. They will write their names on your leash and call you necessary, call you urgent.”
So, I will not struggle to find words of praise but I will offer this bit of his text that stopped me and held me in its grip:
“A page, turning, is a wing lifted with no twin, and therefore no flight. And yet we are moved.”
(Do take a look at the Acknowledgments to the work of others at the end of the book.)