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Bitter in the Mouth

3.5 of 5 stars 3.50  ·  rating details  ·  1,317 ratings  ·  287 reviews
'The truth about my family is that we disappointed one another. When I hear the word "disappoint" I taste toast, slightly burnt.'





Growing up in Boiling Springs, North Carolina, in the '70s and '80s, Linda Hammerick knows that she is different. She has strong, almost paralysing associations between words and tastes; she doesn't look like everyone else; and she isn't popular
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Paperback, 306 pages
Published August 2010 by Chatto & Windus (first published January 1st 2010)
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jo
this book is simply fantastic. i consider it nothing short of a masterpiece. as i was reading it i kept thinking, how did she do it?

but she did it.

the story is nothing one can summarize and make the book sound as enticing as it is. what makes this book worth reading in spades is the absolute genius, the delightful brilliance of its composition. which composition reveals itself slowly. after the first few chapters the only thing that kept me reading was the loveliness of the language. about hal
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Ron Nie
A mind blowingly beautiful literary revision of To Kill a Mockingbird and Other Voices, Other Rooms, Bitter in the Mouth is about Linda, a girl growing up in the deep south.
One of her three secrets is that Linda has synesthesia - when she hears a word, she tastes a particular food. The metaphor works wonderfully: food fills you up, it comprises your body. Sharing the same food can unite people - even if their DNA is different, their insides actually hold the same substance (like when Linda conn
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Susan
This lovely book is literary Southern Lit with a bit of a twist. Linda is a child who can taste certain spoken words, is sometimes bombarded with tastes. Her mother is distant. Her acerbic grandmother, on her death bed, tells Linda, “What I know about you, little girl, would break you in two.” Her father loves her. But most of all, she has her great-uncle, Baby Harper. I love this character, my favorite in the entire book. He was Linda's soft place to land, the person who knew and accepted her j ...more
Elizabeth
This is a book that is easy to fall into. The setting, characters have a familiar lilt to it, reminiscent of Southern classics like To Kill A Mockingbird. The main character's synesthesia allows for some interestingly poetic interpretations of classic scenes (boy meets girl scenes, especially). Others have mentioned that the book is a little self-conscious. I think it started out more charming and engaging than self-conscious, but toward the middle some of the "Southern" story characterizations, ...more
Vy
I really enjoyed the middle of this book. I liked almost all the characters, and I was drawn in to the story. I carried this book with me, hoping for a few moments here or there to learn what would happen next. I was actually disappointed when I found no line at all on my errand to the post office because I was sure I'd be able to get a few more pages in while waiting!

The beginning was a bit slow, and it took some time to get used to the author's habit of coming back to the same people and event
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Laurel-Rain
While Linda is growing up in the small town of Boiling Springs, North Carolina, back in the 70s and 80s, she knows that she is different from everyone else, even the members of her own family. She "tastes" words. When she hears or speaks them, an association with a flavor bombards her, which she calls "incomings."

Her best friend Kelly writes letters to her, first to launch their friendship, and then to connect with her afterwards, even though they live in the same neighborhood. The letter connec
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April
I love the way Troung strings words together, but this book is still not an easy one to follow. As a reader, there are places you want to go, strands you want to follow, but Troung doesn't let you. She is in control and you are dragged along her path at her speed. Its as though she opens doors and gives you a fleeting glimpse inside, but then closes it and suddenly tugs you down a completely different hallway, all the while you're digging in your heels screaming, "Wait! I want to see more of wha ...more
Judy

I was completely enchanted by Monique Truong's first novel, The Book of Salt. Of course, it was set in Paris, with a fictional Vietnamese immigrant who served as cook to Gertrude Stein and Alice B Toklas. So tasty.

Bitter in the Mouth is set in the American south, but as I know from William Faulkner, the south can be another country to a northerner like me. In that area of the United States they have their own customs, including a finely honed talent for not noticing the most obvious matters when
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Marcie
There’s only one word for this book: compelling. Truong is a huge talent.

Once you become accustomed to the “foreign language” the narrator-protagonist speaks – that certain words create tastes in her mouth – the journey of a woman into her past childhood memories takes you on a journey into your own past. Do you remember the first time you tasted soda pop, and the fizz alarmed you?

I am intrigued by this author’s use of a synesthetic character to help readers as adults examine how the child-versi
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Nan
The protagonist of this novel is a young woman who experiences tastes when she hears words. The story is of her adolesence and early adulthood. I found this book to be rather gimmick-y and annoying. Tangents about Viginia Dare, the Wright brothers, and a poet who was a slave kept popping up. A more saavy reader probably could make sense of this, but I kept thinking "Again with Virginia Dare?" And, frankly, as an Ohioan, I'm always annoyed by North Carolinians claiming the Wright brothers. Dayton ...more
Amy Bradley
On the cover is a beatiful magnolia and the book is set in North Carolina which are two positives for me. Boy was I disappointed. The main character's grandmother says some memorable words on her death bed that leads the main character on a search for who she is. She has synaesthesia so she tastes words. I don't really know what this added to the story other than it made it hard to read. "Lindamint, youcannedgreenbeans may have forTriscuitgotten this, but youcannedgreenbeans had gone off to Yale ...more
T
Don't know why, but I like M. Truong's style of writing, having read both her books (Book of Salt first).

Bitter in the Mouth follows the life of Linda, who is adopted into a Southern family with a cast of definitely different personalities. Grandmother Iris is rather cold. Great uncle Harper's family nickname is Baby, and is the family homosexual; he has a special rapport with Linda. Mother DeAnne is rather aloof. Father was an attorney and passes away from a massive heart attack.

Linda has a r
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Anna
I had a like/hate relationship with this book. The book was hard to read; Linda has synesthesia, the kind where most words have a taste. It would be more interesting if it weren't so hard to read through the words and tastes combined, differentiated only by italics. I can't imagine how the audio book dealt with it. The plot itself, of Linda's relationship with her mother, her rape, being an outsider in a small Southern town, just went to slowly for me. All if it was interesting, just...too slow.
L
I've just begun this book, and am already in love. Linda tells us she loved her mother from age seven to eleven--four good years. It is refreshing to read a book by a woman who had a difficult relationship with her mother. (Every other woman author seems to have adored her mother, who was the most beautiful, most loving creature ever to walk the earth. I often miss my mother something fierce, but it was never easy or smooth between us. I finally have an author with whom I feel some level of iden ...more
Karen
One of the best books I have read in a while. Gorgeous writing, and I love how it played with my assumptions.
Ciji W
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Stephanie
I was really excited that I won this from Goodreads(Thank You!) But this book was not good at all. The description of the book sounded pretty interesting, so that's why I entered the giveaway. But it just did not hold my interest. I am about halfway done with the book but I have not picked it up since October so I decided to finally just write a review. I do plan on finishing it eventually but I'm really not interested in finishing it at the moment. I hate not finishing a book though, but I just ...more
Anna
Loved this book. I was taken in on the first page. I can't think of the right word to describe her prose and unique point of view. No one word seems exactly right...exquisite? quirky? poignant? elegant? singular? soigne? funny? I liked this book on so many levels. Her craftsmanship as a writer was a delight. I loved how her story unfolded. There were clues along the way so the revelations did not come as a complete surprise. I like the South. I thought the author must have spent time there to un ...more
Jill
It’s been a long time since I’ve been introduced to a character as original as Linda – a woman who suffers from auditory-gustatory synesthesia. Or, in simpler terms, she has the rare ability to “taste” words as a result of a “neurological condition that caused the involuntary mixing of the senses.”

Monique Truong represents her condition by marrying tastes with words; for example, “I thought youcannedgreenbeans knewpeanut butter.” Or “Lindamint. Stopcannedcorn it!” While the narrative can become
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Kay Wright
By now I should be tired of comming of age stories but this one has several surprises I did not see coming. The narrative bounces between today and Linda's childhood in North Carolina. The allusions (on top of many direct references) to Mockingbird are constant, the father is a lawyer who tousles her hair, the great uncle is Dill grown up, the cold female character like Scout's aunt. Someone even asks "Who is Boo Radley?" meaning which person in her household. Linda's answer, coming late in the ...more
cat
2011 Book 37/2011

Oh, Monique Truong, you are my novelist crush. I couldn't stop raving about, returning to, and thinking of, her first book "The Book of Salt" and I finally read her newest, "Bitter in the Mouth" last night. And I loved it. Not quite in the same swooning and exclamatory way that I loved "The Book of Salt", but similiar. A novel that features a cross-dressing and loving great-uncle called "Baby Harper" by the whole family who completely stole my heart, a main character with lexica
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Karen
Hard to say how I feel about this book. There were times that I loved it and a few times, not so much. Linda, the main character, has a form of synesthesia that makes her taste spoken words. She has a dysfunctional family, seemingly requisite for almost every introspective novel, which proved very trying at times. The story covers Linda's childhood and early adulthood going back and forth freely with not a lot of action, mostly thoughts and feelings explored. I am not sure the rape subplot did a ...more
Jennifer Abdo
I had heard it was at least somewhat autobiographical and was starting to think I was wrong until about the middle where she begins talking about her Vietnamese heritage. That annoyed me at first, but after sleeping on it I think it was kind of brilliant. It also probably reflects her opinion on the different things that have shaped her life which I also thought was a great way to express herself. Being shy myself, I connected with the relief and loathing of invisibility, among other of the pret ...more
Gordon
There are delights of plot and delights of language. Some books are both, but they're rare. Bitter in the Mouth is a delight of language. The heroine of the book, Linda Hammerick suffers from synesthesia, combination of the sense of taste to that of hearing so when someone says a word, a taste occurs at the same time. The result is a tumult of senses while people speak that threatens to overwhelm her and the reader with whom she shares her world. Time is also jumbled in this novel. Events from e ...more
Ang
I can envision a scenario in which another reader has a violently bad reaction to this book. There's a roundabout quality to it that I can imagine would be infuriating to the wrong reader. But I found it satisfying. A little like unpeeling an orange. Or unwrapping a present slowly. I just liked the tumbling way it arrived at a really soft, small (but satisfying) ending. I don't know how else to describe it. It's a quirky book. It unrolls in a quirky way. And I liked that.

A few things kept it fro
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Izzybatz
Tasting flavors with words is a very real existence for a very small percentage of the population. To view this life from one individual as she ages and lives among her family members that are just as interesting as your own, is a grand ride. She takes us through all the feelings we have moving through our lives from young to old and the events others bring upon us. Then include the issues of the flavors and a whole world of other issues erupts. I thoroughly enjoyed the read.
Shikhar Nigam
This is lyrical book. It's more than just a story of a girl, it's an unabashed look into her very soul.

The book is divided into two parts. In the first, the protagonist, Linda shares how she is different from the rest of the world on the inside - because she is a synesthete who tastes certain words when spoken / heard.

The second part of the book held a real surprise for me. In it Linda shares how she is different from the rest of her world on the outside too. And this subtle juxtaposition betwe
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Suzanne Nuyen
This book was absolutely beautiful. I am without words. Completely blown away with how she handled the story of a Vietnamese adoptee. This isn't my Asian American experience, but it captivated me nonetheless.
Alayne Bushey
Linda Hammerick grew up in small-town Boiling Springs, North Carolina, always knowing she was a little different from everyone else. To her, words have tastes. The sound of mother brings the flavor of chocolate milk to her mouth, even if her mother is anything but comforting and sweet. The name of the neighbor boy evokes a palate of orange sherbet, and hearing her own name the earthy tang of fresh mint. Bitter in the Mouth is the story of Linda’s life with these never-ending incoming tastes.

At i
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Heather
I read and loved Monique Truong's first novel, The Book of Salt, back in 2004, so I was excited to hear that she had a new novel out this year. The narrator of this one, Linda Hammerick, is a quirky person from a quirky family, which could be annoying but which I found pretty charming. Take, for example, this passage in the first chapter about her great-uncle, who used to be a librarian.
At work his methodology was conventional and efficient, but that wasn't the case in his own home. His books we
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Bitter in the Mouth 1 7 Aug 24, 2013 09:40AM  
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1852
Monique T.D. Truong (born 1968 in Saigon, South Vietnam) is a Vietnamese American writer living in Brooklyn, New York. Truong left Vietnam for the United States in 1975. She served in the past as an associate fiction editor for the Asian Pacific American Journal, a literary publication of the Asian American Workshop based in New York City.
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“WE all need a story of where we came from and how we got here.” 4 likes
“After a week's worth of failed fairy tales—stories that made my eyelids flutter open and not shut—my father tried telling me stories that belonged only to him. Thomas told me of an island off the coast of a different world. On this island, there stood a city whose buildings were made of glass. He told me that at the heart of this city was a forest with trees, ponds and a lake, swans and horses, and even a small castle. He told me that the streets of the city were filled with bright yellow cars that you hopped in and out of at will and that would take you wherever you wanted to go. In this city, there were sidewalks overflowing with people from the whole world over who wanted so much to be there. He told me of its neighborhoods, with names like Greenwich Village and Harlem and Chinatown. At the nucleus of these stories was my father, and spinning around him was the city of New York. Long before I would see them in photographs or in real life, my father had given me the white crown lights of the Chrysler Building and the shining needle of the Empire State.” 3 likes
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