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Bitter in the Mouth

3.53  ·  Rating Details ·  1,590 Ratings  ·  324 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
Paperback, 306 pages
Published August 2010 by Chatto & Windus (first published 2010)
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Jessica McNeice SORRY DIDNT GET TO FINISH MY QUESTION: So I am confused to why Troung filed the entirety of revelation under one day, when it clearly takes place…moreSORRY DIDNT GET TO FINISH MY QUESTION: So I am confused to why Troung filed the entirety of revelation under one day, when it clearly takes place beyond where she finished her "revelation." i.e the revelation about her family and birth parents and even wade is later than the date suggests. why werent these later revelations filed under a third part, or the date set later. OR was there a revelation before and I missed it? the story line doesnt end until september(less)
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Community Reviews

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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
Ron Nie
Mar 02, 2015 Ron Nie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Sep 14, 2010 Susan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Feb 07, 2011 Vy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Sep 19, 2010 Jill rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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

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
Oct 02, 2010 Laurel-Rain rated it really liked it
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
Jan 14, 2011 Marcie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jan 05, 2012 April rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Ciji W
Aug 22, 2011 Ciji W rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Aug 22, 2010 T rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: asian, asian-author
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
Nov 09, 2011 Nan rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
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
Aug 16, 2010 cat rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 100-in-2011
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
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
Apr 21, 2013 Anna rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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.
Jun 30, 2010 Karen rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: book-club
One of the best books I have read in a while. Gorgeous writing, and I love how it played with my assumptions.
Aug 03, 2011 Stephanie rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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
Lolly K Dandeneau
This novel is incredible. Linda has synaesthesia, she tastes words. As you read, you see it is both a gift and a curse. Bitter in the Mouth is about so much more than Synaesthesia though. It is complicated relationships, secrets, bigotry and all those things are written in a believable way. Linda's uncle BABY HARPER was such a beautiful character that his story just made me ache. I haven't read anything quite this strange in years. There are moments when reading the tastes that come to Linda's t ...more
Sep 13, 2011 Anna rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
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
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
Kay Wright
Sep 28, 2010 Kay Wright rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Oct 04, 2014 Karen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Feb 28, 2011 Jennifer Abdo rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Oct 19, 2010 Izzybatz rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Tamiko Nimura
Mar 14, 2012 Tamiko Nimura rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The American South, a coming-of-age novel, references to To Kill a Mockingbird, history books, and synaesthesia. It begins, "I fell in love with my great-uncle Harper because he taught me how to dance." So many unexpected and wonderful things about this book. I loved it. And I don't say that about many books.
Suzanne Nuyen
Jan 07, 2015 Suzanne Nuyen rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Madeline Knight-Dixon
This book was so unexpected. I literally just came across it while shelving books at work and was like huh, that sounds cool. I'm so glad I did. It's not just another book about self discovery with beautiful language. It's honest and painful and hilarious. I'm not exaggerating when I say that I laughed out loud And Cried without shame on the subway while reading this.

Linda is relatable on so many different levels. The family complications and the dynamics of growing up in a small town, the desi
Alayne Bushey
May 13, 2011 Alayne Bushey rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Monique Truong has a fascinating way with time; she skips about, one thing leading to something 20 years ago, then 50, then yesterday, then 250... she plays with her reader, dropping hints to past events like breadcrumbs in a forest--only to eventually whack you over the head with the whole story.

There are a few surprises that Truong keeps completely to herself, just to spring it on the unsuspecting reader. An important facet of Linda Hammerick is left hidden until about halfway through the book
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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.” 5 likes
“As a father, he was generous. More or less. The "less" was because he never gave me what I wanted. He gave me only what he wanted me to have. I found this was often true with philanthropy and with love. The giver's desire and fulfillment played an important role.” 4 likes
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