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Dear Fang, With Love

3.86  ·  Rating details ·  1,930 ratings  ·  291 reviews
From the acclaimed author of  The Girls from Corona del Mar,  a sprawling, ambitious new novel about a young father who takes his teenage daughter to Europe, hoping that an immersion in history might help them forget his past mistakes and her uncertain future.

Lucas and Katya were boarding school seniors when, blindingly in love, they decided to have a baby. Seventeen years
Hardcover, 303 pages
Published May 24th 2016 by Knopf
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Linda It's well written. The plot (teenage girl who has a breakdown and the suspense about whether she truly has a mental condition and if so, what it is) i…moreIt's well written. The plot (teenage girl who has a breakdown and the suspense about whether she truly has a mental condition and if so, what it is) is interesting, and I thought the history of Vilnius was fascinating. It's really good imo.(less)

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Average rating 3.86  · 
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 ·  1,930 ratings  ·  291 reviews

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Diane S ☔
Jan 08, 2016 rated it really liked it
There is something so compelling yet accessible in this journey of a father and daughter. Late into his daughter's life, Lucas tries to forge a relationship with this young girl who is having, what looks to be a psychotic breakdown. His family lore, his grandmother and her stories of survival during the war lead Lucas to suggest a trip to Vilnius, Lithuania in an attempt to find his roots but also to provide his daughter with a change of scenery and an adventure.

Lucas is a wonderful, caring pers
I can't even write a proper review, I'm too speechless. I just wanted to say, if I was a writer, I'd want to write like Rufi Thorpe. A brazenly talented mind. I also recommend her debut novel, "The Girls From Corona del Mar". Her stories and characters break my heart. Ugh. I'm dying here. ...more
May 24, 2020 rated it really liked it
On the one hand, this is a novel about an insecure father (Lucas) grappling with his past and ancestry - while getting to know his 17 year old daughter (Vera) who is both brilliant and unstable. And Fang, Vera's boyfriend may be the most intriguing character of all. All of this happens during a history tour in a small town in Lithuania. If that sounds tangled, it could have been, but Thorpe deftly controls the narrative. I was enthralled. ...more
Jun 08, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Just wow. This book is very much in my wheelhouse - cerebral and emotional, filled with questions and doubt, smatterings of historical context and events told from multiple perspectives.

I absolutely fell in love with the intelligent 17 year old Vera, diagnosed with Bipolar. Is she crazy? Is she just an over-emotional teenager? Aren't her questions and observations things we've all considered?

Thorpe handles her frailty with such brutal honestly that I couldn't tear myself away from the second hal
Jenny (Reading Envy)
Dec 03, 2018 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Jenny (Reading Envy) by: Kimberly
(I read this in March but couldn't post about it until the full round of this year's postal book swap had finished.)

I like stories that are told in pieces the way this is - emails, letters, etc. I liked that some of these pieces are hidden until a very important moment, and they do tell a completely different story.

In a story about a young woman who has mental illness, I appreciated that so many chapters come from her father's point of view. He has his own stories, his own desires, his own blind
Julie Ehlers
Aug 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: literary-fiction
I'm not sure how to do this book justice. I've now read both of Rufi Thorpe's novels, and while I really enjoyed and admired The Girls from Corona del Mar, I loved this one even more. It felt so much more intimate and close, and the stakes felt so much higher. Something about Thorpe's writing really appeals to me—it's vivid and has a great sense of place, but doesn't weigh the reader down with ponderous descriptions; she knows how to keep things moving. And her characters are remarkable: as a re ...more
Eva • All Books Considered
Sep 29, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites, travel
Review originally posted at All Books Considered: 5 STARS

I am honestly torn between four and a half and five stars for this one -- it's almost like I don't even know what five stars means anymore. That being, said, this is definitely one of my favorite reads of this year and also completely surprised me. Not because I wasn't expecting it to be good but because not only was the writing absolutely astounding but the story also hooked me from the beginning. I loved the way in which this story w
Sep 28, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: edelweiss
The Holocaust, mental illness, personal realities, absent fathers, and a father trying to be present. What really attracted me to this book was the trip to Vilnius. I want to learn more about the area and it's history. I did, but it was really the themes of Vilnius that were the focus. The landscape and history that I was immersed in were personal. Lucas and his daughter Vera are not close and Lucas hopes a trip to the land his grandmother was born in will improve their relationship and help Ver ...more
Betsy Robinson
Oct 18, 2020 rated it really liked it
I discovered Rufi Thorpe through her new book The Knockout Queen and wanted more, more, more. The woman has writing chops.

Dear Fang, with Love, published in 2016, is not as tightly written, but the characters—mainly a father and his teenage daughter, along with many subsidiary characters—are just as real and enticing. The book is a journey of a father getting to know his daughter, grappling with mental illness. But to say that is to diminish it. Thorpe’s depth and curiosity about life, consc
Dec 18, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction, 2016
I tore through this book in 2 days. In essence, it’s the story of a clueless and passive 35 year old with a drinking problem who travels to Vilnius, Lithuania with his (maybe) mentally ill daughter to research his family background and Holocaust connection. Great stuff. I’ve enjoyed both of this author’s novels.
Oct 21, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favourites
If there's one book I'm terrified of writing a review of, it's Dear Fang, With Love by Rufi Thorpe. Why? Because there's literally nothing about it that I'd want to change. The writing is perfect. The plot is so intricate and unstoppable. The characters are EXTREMELY well-developed; they weren't flat or neglected or overdone. The themes and subject matter were important too.
The basic premise includes Vera who's recovering from a mental breakdown and is off on a trip to Europe with her father, wh
Exceptional story. Something new, fresh and different. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Story captures so many issues and aspects of human life. Father and daughter trip to Vilnius, Lithuania. The father, Lucas was crazy in love with Kat, Russian girl that he met in a school, when still young they made a baby (“Let’s make a baby, baby”). With pregnant Kat, they went to live on a commune of free living hippies, working on a farm. That was too much for a young Lucas, who called his mother and eventually di
Holy wow, did I ever love this book. The only thing I didn't love about it was the terrible, terrible title, but I loved absolutely everything else.

The budding father-daughter relationship between these two semi-strangers is fascinating, and the contrast of the two settings is perfection: plucking these two characters out of sterile suburban southern California and tossing them into old-world Vilnius, Lithuania and watching them flail around there in completely distinctive, individual ways. I am
Kevin Shepherd
Oct 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing
"I knew what bipolar was in a vague, strictly literary way, but I didn't know the differences between I and II, didn't know the treatment protocols. I didn't know that they were telling me my daughter would never live a completely functional adult life, that she would always be on medication, that the medication would affect her health, that she might not be able to hold a job, that she might not be able to graduate college, that she might not be able to sustain long-term relationships, like a m ...more
Roman Clodia
May 23, 2016 rated it really liked it
"The beauty of ruined things"

The thing I loved about this book is its unexpectedness, the way I had no idea where it was going. Thorpe has pulled together a complicated narrative which takes in issues of family and responsibility, the relationships between parents and children, and it ranges from Lithuania under the Nazis to present-day America. What holds it all together are the voices of Lucas and his troubled yet charismatic daughter Vera as they both, in different ways, have to confront thei
Jessica Sullivan
“It didn’t matter how terrified I was. It didn’t matter that there was no solution to the problem we faced. We would simply have to fix it anyway. We didn’t have to be brave or heroic, we merely had to persist. And I found that I could do that.”

I absolutely adored this story about an estranged father, Lucas, who takes his teenage daughter, Vera, on a trip to Lithuania after she suffers a psychotic break.

Vera is one of my favorite literary characters in recent memory. She’s sharp, funny, and bril
Aug 06, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This book is one of the reasons I love to read. I was completely transported to a place (Lithuania) that I will probably never visit. Thorpe did such a masterful job of recreating Vilnius, right down to the farmer's cheese and wine that I felt like I was there. Her character development was amazing. These were all people that you could know in your everyday life but at the same time were so layered and nuanced that you want to keep reading so you can find out a little bit more about them as the ...more
Jun 01, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Fantastic book--will be on my favorites of the year list without a doubt. It isn't perfect but it is perfectly compelling with well-drawn characters and glimmers of Gary Shteyngart and Shalom Auslander. I was drawn in within the first few pages and when I wasn't reading it, only thought about when I could get back to it. I'm not typically wild about epistolary novels but this one isn't entirely letters (or more accurately, emails) but this is so deftly handled and Vera's voice is so strong that ...more
Oct 11, 2016 rated it really liked it
17 year old Vera may or may not be mentally ill. She has only recently reconnected with her father and they decide to go on a trip to Poland to learn more about their family history. I really liked this book. It was smart and real with flawed characters and just enough quirk. Vera was a fascinating character and much of what you learn about her comes from her letters to her boyfriend, Fang which leave you questioning her bipolar diagnosis. Definitely an under the radar gem.
Feb 06, 2016 rated it really liked it
A captivating look at family history, the Holocaust and the struggle of mental illness that families and individuals face.

I really enjoyed Rufi Thorpe's second book and learned about parts of the Holocaust that were new to me, as the majority of the book takes place in Lithuania.

I highly recommend Dear Fang, With Love.
Jul 25, 2016 added it
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Katya and Lucas were attending Exeter (the fancy boarding school) when, during their senior year, Katya proposed that they have a baby and live on a communal farm. When Katya refused prenatal care, Lucas called his parents, and the teenagers returned to their families’ homes. Lucas never saw Katya fully pregnant, nor did he meet their daughter, Vera, until she was four. Vera was eleven before Lucas was any sort of father figure in her life. But since
Aug 09, 2016 rated it really liked it
"It was funny, I thought, the way women let men think they ruled the world. That was the bargain they made: you take the world, and we’ll take life and death. Sure, fight wars. Make up countries. Call them whatever you want. Make up laws. It all sounds good.
But that was only to distract them so that they wouldn’t try to participate in the women’s work, which was the pulling of souls out from the darkness and the projection of light into the future."
Dear Fang, with love Rufi Thorpe --(as a midwif
Stephanie Mazza
Jan 09, 2019 rated it it was amazing
"We didn't have to be brave or heroic, we merely had to persist."

Really loved this! A compelling book that takes you on a journey -- one that's happy, sad, fulfilling, and leaving you wanting more all at once. At its core it is about family and the concept of relation to one another, whether it's by blood or just by being there. It's about knowing another person or wanting to know another person and the difficulties that come up in being able to truly do so.

Thorpe does a wonderful job at de
Mar 10, 2019 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Ruthiella by: Jenny (Reading Envy)
Lucas only became part of his daughter Vera’s life when she turned 12. She was the result of a teenage romance between Lucas and Katya that didn't work out. When Vera turns 17 she is diagnosed as bipolar and Lucas takes her on a summer tour of Vilnius, Lithuania in an effort to bond with her and perhaps to simply better understand her.

I thought this was a surprising emotional book and really well structured in its reveal of the plot. The chapters alternate between Lucas’ first person narration
Ceillie Simkiss
Jul 11, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reviewed, fiction
Strange and beautiful are the words I keep thinking when it comes to this book. I'll write a full review later.

Read the full review here!
Jul 02, 2017 rated it liked it
I chose to read this book as a form of catharsis and to face fears about myself. I was diagnosed with bipolar I at the same age as Vera and had such similar experiences. This book is mostly told from her father's perspective, so it shed a light on how my parents and other parents feel about and cope with manic episodes. The author must have a extremely close connection to the illness because it was accurate to my experience in many ways. I'm still processing the emotions and fears this book stir ...more
Apr 20, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2016, june-2016
"Lucas, my boy. I love you so much. I wish I could take all the hurt in the universe and swallow it so that there was nothing left for you to find, no single crumb of evil in the whole universe, and you could wander around just happy."
"Yeah, but I'm a grown-ass man, Mom. I'm supposed to deal with shit."
"I know," she said, "but every mother feels that way."

This book really resonated with me in a huge way, especially this passage and one other at the very end. It's also made very clear that women
Jul 24, 2016 rated it liked it
Dear Fang,
You know, while your girlfriend was flipping out about that online picture of you with that other girl, she was trying to hook up with a thirty year old guy from her tour group. Her father is not quite sure how to be a father, and honestly, I don't know why you are involved with this fractured family. I will never be able to look at supermarket cake without thinking about Grandma Sylvie and her Nazi. I think a psychotic break might be needed after reading this.
Emma Refvem
Mar 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Wow. This book was so well-written, and so thoughtfully approached issues of mental health, fatherhood, family histories, the long-term effects of WWII... I just really loved it. The perspective of a family member coping with another family member's mental collapse is one I can relate to, but I almost forgot that. This brought up a lot of memories of that time in my life and it delicately touched on how hard it is to sift out the illness from the person. Heartbreaking and lovely. ...more
But isn't that why we travel? To get disorientated. To be changed. p127

When you're in a strange place you don't have any cues as to who you are.263

Some people take well to this,discovering inner resources that allow them to make the most of the opportunities presented them. Most people seem to lack the initiative to do this and rather cling to shards of meaning culled from what passes for contemporary wisdom. Stand out and labels are considered and advice for medication.

Still, even knowing his l
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Rufi Thorpe received her MFA from the University of Virginia in 2009. Her first novel, The Girls from Corona del Mar, was long listed for the 2014 International Dylan Thomas Prize and for the 2014 Flaherty-Dunnan First Novel Prize. Her second novel, Dear Fang, With Love, is forthcoming from Knopf in May 2016. She lives in California with her husband and two sons.

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