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She Weeps Each Time You're Born

3.68  ·  Rating details ·  521 ratings  ·  118 reviews
Quan Barry’s luminous fiction debut brings us the tumultuous history of modern Vietnam as experienced by a young girl born under mysterious circumstances a few years before the country’s reunification, a child gifted with the otherworldly ability to hear the voices of the dead.
At the peak of the war in Vietnam, a baby girl is born along the Song Ma River on the night of
Hardcover, 288 pages
Published February 10th 2015 by Pantheon
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3.68  · 
Rating details
 ·  521 ratings  ·  118 reviews

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May 22, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"… they had begun calling her Rabbit, naming her for the full moon that had licked her clean. The rabbit with its innocence, its youthfulness, its long bright ears that hear everything in the realms of both the living and the dead. Rabbit because the world is full of rabbits. Rabbit because by sheer force of numbers, the rabbit walks among us unnoticed but pandemic."

Born in the war-ravaged country of Vietnam, Rabbit is pulled from the earth from her dead mother’s body and is blessed – or perhaps
Nov 04, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Beautiful. This is a prime example of how a poet excels in the novel form. The poetry gracefully occurred throughout the book. I cannot emphasize enough the sheer gorgeous language found in this book.

The story is magical and gripping. It tells of French colonialism in Vietnam and later of the American war as well as a bit after.

I must mention my appreciation for this book, especially its placing the Vietnam experience of that period in some context and shedding light on that history, portraying
Bonnye Reed
Dec 20, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: keepers, favorites
XXX I received this novel as a Goodreads Giveaway from Alfred A. Knopf, Penguin Random House, and Quan Barry. Thank you so much for allowing me to read this novel.

My husband is a Vietnam vet, two tours in 1964-65-66. He and I have both read this book and shared ideas, impressions, and their impact on each of us, in our own hearts. First, this is a fantastic read. For me it was a bit confusing, as the chapters jump back and forth in time. I often had to place the events in a mental time line to s
Jan 06, 2016 rated it it was amazing

It's obvious Quan Barry writes poetry -- this book is filled with poetic imagery. Once I started it, I could barely put it down. It reminds me of "One Hundred Years Of Solitude", with flashes of magical realism, as well as how it follows the characters through time. The author references the Buddhist Wheel Of Life, and the book's structure reinforces this idea. A truly incredible book about a topic many westerners haven't given much thought to -- highly recommend.
Feb 09, 2015 rated it really liked it
Poetic and mystical a story of Vietnam and its people from the French occupation through the Vietnam/American war. This is the story of a girl, Rabbit, who is born and buried alive with her dead mother, Little Mother. When she is found three days later, Rabbit is able to hear the dead speak. We learn of the reeducation camps, the struggles between north and south Vietnam, life living in floating communities, the rubber plantations such as Terres Noires, the disformed fetuses from chemicals the p ...more
This review first appeared in the Los Angeles Times:

Here's a true dumb American confession: I have a hard time with historical novels that take place outside of the U.S. I'm not much of a history buff, and I find it takes a skillful, engaging author to both situate and dazzle me with beauty at the same time. Quan Barry, as it turns out, is just that kind of author. In her debut novel, "She Weeps Each Time You're Born," the Saigon-born poet guides us throu
Alexandra Supertramp
I really wish that Goodreads would let you use half stars to rate books because I feel like 3 stars is mediocre (which this book is not) but I have trouble giving it 4. This is not really one of those "couldn't put it down" reads. On the contrary, you have to take your time and really concentrate. There is minimal punctuation which can be confusing when people say something or there is a flashback in the middle of a 'present day scene', but you do get used to that after a bit. The book itself is ...more
Jan 12, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
i'm obsessed

ok see, this book is beautifully written, which isn't a surprised considering the author's a poet, but it's also beautiful because it's so comprehensive in its articulation of vietnamese history sans americanisms. it tells of a history long before the americans came, and long after they left.

it's a book about VIETNAM. and i like history written in such a poetic, opaque style because i'm captured by the country, its history and its people. i know jack about vietnam aside from the viet
beautiful novel of vietnam history starting more or less with french colony, wwii, war of independance, usa war, war with cambodia, told through adventures of a band of outsiders trying to get over.
wonderful way to get your history and your story all in one book.
Feb 08, 2015 rated it really liked it
I don't really have words for this yet. It's lovely and magical and horrific and surprising and beautiful.
She Weeps Each Time You're Born was my selection for my book club, which meant I was responsible for leading our discussion about it. When I got to the end of the book, I could barely make sense of what I'd read and had no idea how we were going to talk about it. I ended up reading a lot a lot of Wikipedia articles and other web pages about Vietnam and Southeast Asia, the Vietnam War, and Buddhism, and then re-reading the whole book. On my second time through, I was much better equipped to recog ...more
Mar 10, 2019 rated it really liked it
Beautiful characters, but I read it in disjointed sessions and didn't appreciate the metaphors and tying threads. Marked three of the books cited as to read for a deeper insight into daily life in Vietnam.
Jul 11, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This book had a lot of potential, but the movement back and forth in time within the different time periods made it difficult to fully grasp the symbolism or in some cases, to engage with what was happening in the moment.
Kathleen Burke
Jun 27, 2017 rated it it was amazing
The writing was exquisite. I would want to read passages to Dave "listen to this sentence, its magical". The author is a poet and this is her first novel. The book is set in Vietnam and is about a young girl who is born under mysterious circumstances and can hear the voices of the dead. Highly recommend!
Quan Barry’s She Weeps Each Time You’re Born is a poetic, magical exploration of 20th century Vietnamese history, told through the lens of one family group. This is a debut novel by a poet, and it shows. Not that the book is ever flowery or excessively descriptive—it’s more like Barry has chosen each word with careful thought, as one might when crafting a poem. Because of this, She Weeps Each Time You’re Born gives off every impression of a skillfully crafted piece of art, which does much to acc ...more
Jan 04, 2015 rated it really liked it
Many thanks and much appreciation to Pantheon Books New York, for the ARC of "She Weeps Each Tine You're Born: A Novel" by award winning author/poet Quan Barry for the purpose of this review. Barry was born in Saigon, and raised in Boston, MA. Quan Barry is an English professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, her poetry and writing have been featured in many notable publications.

The novel, reflective of the other Vietnam: the river people/tribes that inhabit the Mekong Delta. Not allowed
Feb 18, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
“Sometimes things blow shut of their own accord. The way a door creaks on its splintery wooden hinges—pain in the very sound of it. How the pain comes fluttering up in the joints, the pain permanent like new teeth. This is the moment of thresholds. The sound of doors swinging wildly somewhere in the wind" (15).
“…the air sulfurous and filled with thunder and lightning. Each time one hit, brightness like hell itself” (21).
“Thousands of candles can be lit from a single candle, and the life of the c
Jan 18, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2015
Born in the middle of the Vietnam War and left in her mother’s grave, Rabbit can hear the voices and stories of the dead. Though she grows up after the height of the fighting, she comes to find her country has been plagued with violence and war for decades. Through the stories of her ancestors, Rabbit must learn to come to terms with Vietnam’s past, her ability to see it, and her place in its future.

Though the book is guided maps and family trees, I found the first few sections of She Weeps Each
Dec 30, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: book-group, fiction
I picked this book for book group at the recommendation of an employee at the wonderful Boswell Books here in Milwaukee. It was a bit out of my comfort zone, but I'm so glad to have listened to that enthusiastic bookseller. This is a lovely book, difficult to read at times because it is about the war in Vietnam and the terrible, unbelievable, unrelenting toll such conflict exacted on the people who were involved, even passively because of their mere presence. It's interesting to read about that ...more
May 05, 2015 rated it liked it
I struggle to give this a star rating.

I haven't read many things like it.

The language was dense and (unsurprisingly) poetic. Woven within were many poignant historical references (Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos from 1972-2001) and many, MANY other allusions (to religions, to folklore...) – far more than I was capable of absorbing. Every few pages there was a puzzle of partial information. I had to flip back pages to verify even the few in-book references I did sense.

I am left with questions about the e
Nov 30, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction
3.75 stars out of 5.

This book is beautifully written, and in less than 300 pages made me realize just how woefully lacking my knowledge of Vietnam really is. Barry captures the emotions and struggles of the historical and modern political climate very well, and certainly made me want to keep reading.

The book's prose was written in such a way that I couldn't help but think of some of my favorite Latin American authors and their use of magical realism to describe emotionally jarring incidents and
Tami P
Oct 17, 2015 rated it it was ok
Ok, quite honestly, I'd give this 1.5 stars. It wasn't bad enough for me to quit listening, but I didn't really enjoy it. I reserve 1 stars for books I can't finish.

I do believe this books suffered from me "reading" it as an audio book, as I didn't really like the reader and the book jumped around in time and was quite confusing in audio.

I may edit this review after the book group - maybe I missed something. But I doubt it.
Natalie Adams
Jul 15, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
this book was confusing, different, abstract and mesmerizing. i love the way quan barry turned literary conventions on their heads and threw the reader in so many directions. def would recommend to anyone that wants to put some work into a book and learn about vietnamese history while quan barry plays with structure and language.
Feb 27, 2015 rated it really liked it
It took a while for this book to really click with me as it was hard to keep track of who the characters were and where in history the story was at but once I got a hang of it, the book blossomed. Basically, this is just a really long poem told in novel-style. And the magical-realism aspects are beautiful.
Mar 26, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: cross-cultural
This book is beautifully written but I could not follow the progression. Probably it's my mind-set at this time but I just could not finish it because it was just too difficult for me to follow the who's who and when did it happen?
Nov 19, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Under 300 pages yet incredibly evocative of its time and place. Though prose, the author is clearly a poet. Historical yet metaphorical and the best inside a land of horrors.
Jan 03, 2018 rated it really liked it
so beautiful, and so important. it is as if the writer took vietnam’s history and told it in the words of our people.
Feb 21, 2018 rated it really liked it
This is a sad, mystical, multi-generational journey through the troubled history of Vietnam from the French colonizers to post-Vietnam war reunification. It's moving, lyrical and poetic, filled with grief, suffering and loss, but also hope, connection, miracles, and coming back to life.

--The baby sitting in her grandma's lap, "She can hear the old honey seller's heart beating, the sound filling her small head though no one else hears it, not even the heart itself." (p 52)

--"The man could feel t
Nov 07, 2018 rated it liked it
This noel should reboot all our existing perceptions of Vietnam.... not just what we know with the American war.... but the struggles of its people back for generations.
The author uses a character named "Rabbit" to give the reader new, broadened views of Vietnam. It's "landscape of leveled homes, shattered lives and barren, poisoned fields" are not just about the Vietnam we know. Ms Barry continues to present a history of Vietnam much richer than that, and does so with a cast of characters... mi
Jul 10, 2019 rated it liked it
I really loved this book, however, I gave it three stars because at times I had no idea what I was reading. This book is beautifully poetic and honestly would be worth me reading again to grasp the symbolism in it. Some chapters were exquisite and enticing while others felt muddled and confusing.

Overall, if you enjoy history, poetry and don’t mind doing some major mind work while reading, go for it! Definitely not a beach read, but truly a beautiful work of literature and an eye-opening experien
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Born in Saigon and raised on Boston’s north shore, Quan Barry is a professor of English at the University of Wisconsin–Madison and the author of four poetry books; her third book, Water Puppets, won the AWP Donald Hall Prize for Poetry and was a PEN/Open Book finalist. She has received NEA Fellowships in both fiction and poetry, and her work has appeared in such publications as Ms. and The New Yor ...more
“And what happens if we don’t remember? What happens if we never knew? Too many of us are here in the dark because in the rush and clamor of blood the third reptilian brain takes over, the one that says I do not recognize anything of myself in you, and so you are less than nothing.” 1 likes
“Life is a wheel. The way we end up where we begin. From here everything rises—the worn path, the moon with its long bright ears. Imagine water traveling back up into the sky, the sound of it climbing like a question. Who would we be if we had stayed?” 0 likes
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