This can be a very painful and pained book to read for several reasons. For these same reasons, it can also be difficult and frustrating to stick with. That said, it’s a beautifully written novel, and I would highly recommend finding the audiobook (I got it from Overdrive) because the language in the book is very prone to being read aloud and also because Vuong reads the book and this is the perfect kind of book for this.
This book is kind of a long meditation on life and identity. It does have events and moments, and a lot of different interesting ideas and emotions being explored. There’s particularly a plot. The situation is the meditations and life of a young gay man born in Vietnam to a Vietnamese mother and a white American father. The novel takes places in childhood with his mother, now immigrated to the US and the difficulties of being a young, single, immigrant mother in the US, a US in which the terrors visited upon the country and people of Vietnam are not only being treated as crimes committed against the US by the Vietnamese, but also being ignored. The novel also takes place later in the narrator’s adolescence as he’s trying to understand what it means to be gay, to be Vietnamese-American, what it means to worry about and fear his mother and her potential reactions to his being, and what it means to be a young person trying to figure out his own heart and how to be vulnerable. And the book takes place in his relatively young adulthood as all those other places of pain have calcified in various places, including dealing with the throes of addiction.