Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Best We Could Do” as Want to Read:
The Best We Could Do
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

The Best We Could Do

(The Best We Could Do #1-3)

4.38  ·  Rating details ·  28,869 ratings  ·  4,193 reviews
The Best We Could Do, the debut graphic novel memoir by Thi Bui, is an intimate look at one family's journey from their war-torn home in Vietnam to their new lives in America. Exploring the anguish of immigration and the lasting effects that displacement has on a child and her family, Bui documents the story of her family's daring escape after the fall of South Vietnam in ...more
Hardcover, 329 pages
Published March 7th 2017 by Harry N. Abrams
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about The Best We Could Do, please sign up.
Popular Answered Questions
J Austill I agree with Pop Culture Nerd, above, but wanted to add to that.

Thi is pronounced like Tee but the 'h' sound is still there adding to the sound. There…more
I agree with Pop Culture Nerd, above, but wanted to add to that.

Thi is pronounced like Tee but the 'h' sound is still there adding to the sound. There is no 'th' sound in Vietnamese. So it is somewhere between the English words tee and he.

Bui is easier, the 'u' in Vietnamese is a short oo sound. So, it is pronounced like buoy. (less)
Marcus Not at all. It has moments of sadness but overall it's about the triumph of the human spirit. Ultimately uplifting.…moreNot at all. It has moments of sadness but overall it's about the triumph of the human spirit. Ultimately uplifting.(less)

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 4.38  · 
Rating details
 ·  28,869 ratings  ·  4,193 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of The Best We Could Do
Oct 22, 2018 rated it really liked it
I read this for my Asian-American studies class, and our discussion made me enjoy this book even more! A school book I actually enjoyed? I know! I'm surprised too!
At first, I wasn't too big of a fan of the art style. However, after analyzing why Thi Bui illustrated it the way she did, I think it was perfect for the story. Truthfully, I don't know too much about the Vietnam War except for the few things I remember from 12th grade history class. This was a wonderfully intimate look at her family's
Elyse  Walters
I still remember how I felt the first time I read the graphic memoir "Can't We Talk About Something More Pleasant", by Roz Chast. I wanted the world to read it...
I laughed. I cried. I laughed and cried at the same time! And by the way.... I felt it should be required reading for anyone who had aging parents! Both my parents were dead - and I still got value 'as' a mother: not wanting to leave my own daughters a mess to deal with after I die.
Roz Chast's graphic memoir TRANSFORMED the word GRAPH
Jan 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This book is featured on Throwback Thursday @ https://readrantrockandroll.com/2018/...

I picked this up from Netgalley as soon as I learned about it. I love reading graphic novels and this one piqued my interest after reading the blurb. I had already read A Different Pond with my kids and loved that one, so I had a good feeling about The Best We Could Do.

This is an extremely moving graphic novel about a family’s immigration from Vietnam and how they do the best they can to make a living in a new
Apr 06, 2017 rated it it was amazing
The Best We Could Do brings to life author Thi Bui’s search for a better future while longing for a simpler past. This beautifully illustrated and emotional story explores the anguish of immigration and the lasting effects that displacement has on a child and her family.

Alternating between the present, Bui's own childhood in California, and the lives of her parents amid the chaos of the Vietnam War, Bui explores the saga of her country while trying to understand the history of her parents and gr
Julie G
This graphic novel dropped like a napalm bomb on me.

Fitting, given the subject matter: a family's multi-generational struggle to live during tumultuous times in Vietnam and ultimately flee the country to take refuge in the United States.

It's a big book, one that took the author and illustrator, Thi Bui, years to complete, and it must have been painful to produce as well. In my opinion, this is not a graphic novel for children, nor is it YA. The author's father had a habit of scaring his kids wi
somehow the art isn't even the most stunning part of this book.

and seriously, look at the art. that's saying something.

this is just a stunner and that's all there is to it!

bottom line: read it already.


i'm a simple girl. ali wong recommends, i read.


taking lily's idea and reading only books by asian authors this month!

book 1: the incendiaries
book 2: last night at the telegraph club
book 3: dear girls
book 4: sigh, gone
book 5: frankly in love
book 6: emergency contact
Empathetic, honest, and emotional. A gorgeously illustrated memoir of a woman who looks to the past to understand her parents and her complicated relationship with them. In 1978, Thi Bui's parents fled South Vietnam with three young children and one on the way. The Best We Could Do tells the story of them growing up in Vietnam, raising a family in the midst of the Vietnam War, their harrowing nighttime escape by boat, and the difficulties of starting a new life in the United States. The tale be
Dave Schaafsma
Mar 10, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: gn-memoir, vietnam
I read this graphic memoir in one sitting and found it affecting as a story and lovely to look at. It's a story that is familiar, the desire to understand the past of one's parents, and in becoming a parent, finding yourself in a better place to do so. Her parents divorced, but to help her understand the past, and tell the tale, they came together to help her. She did lots of secondary research in addition to talking with her parents.

And since it is about Vietnamese parents who became refugees e
Nov 06, 2019 rated it really liked it
This was...difficult to read.
Just by the first chapter I knew this was something that would make me uncomfortable, forcing me to confront issues of my own that I glanced over, a nagging thought I couldn't face, because my anxiety wouldn't allow it.

At its heart, it's a story about family. The author explores what it means to be a child of immigrant parents. As our main character recently became a mother, she sets off to understand her parents and fix a relationship that involves unresolved traum
Dec 03, 2017 rated it really liked it
Such an important and empathetic graphic memoir about Thi Bui's journey to understand her Vietnamese family and their immigration to the United States from South Vietnam. The Best We Could Do begins with Bui's foray into motherhood and how it reminds her of her mother's story and sacrifices. To cultivate a deeper comprehension of her family's past, she interviews her parents, travels back to Vietnam, and spends tons of time learning about the history of the war and her family's place within it. ...more
Jan 20, 2017 rated it really liked it
A heartfelt, engaging, comprehensive illustrated memoir, The Best We Could Do really blew me away. I do not gravitate towards graphic novels as a format, but this book completely hooked me from the opening panels as Thi Bui embarks on her own journey of motherhood for the first time, and seeks to close the gap between herself and her parents by better understanding where she comes from and their own stories. She does incredible amounts of research and is able to distill years of history and emot ...more
Apr 01, 2017 rated it really liked it
3.5 stars

I really liked the art and I definitely learned a lot about Vietnam's history.

However it's a memoir. And, unfortunately, like with many memoirs, I often felt the author didn't dig deep enough or was reluctant to tell the whole truth (probably to, understandably, not hurt her parents). For all author's anger against her parents, she never quite articulated why she felt it. The narrative also was often unclear about certain events, especially how for all the talk about poverty, somehow he
May 27, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poc-author, favorites
Totally cried while reading this. <3 <3

See me talk about this briefly in my May wrap up: https://youtu.be/ymb11Zcb248?t=23m51s
Lisa Vegan
This book is San Francisco’s One City One Book for summer 2018 and I wanted to read it during this period. It’s a fast read and I was able to read it in a couple of days.

It’s a wonderful graphic biography book and interesting history book, and a fabulous book about parents & children and relationships, and trauma.

I’m always in awe of people who can take their pain and experiences and feelings and create writing/art and here there are both. For most of the book I particularly enjoyed the text, e
April (Aprilius Maximus)
“Family is now something I have created - and not just something I was born into.”

representation: own voices Vietnamese & Vietnamese American rep.

[trigger warnings are listed at the bottom of this review and may contain spoilers]

✧·゚: ✧·゚: 4 s t a r s :·゚✧:·゚✧

Wow, I learnt so much reading this. And what a beautiful art style too. Definitely recommend this one if you can handle the subject matter.

trigger warnings: giving birth, needles, suicide attempt, stillbirth, loss of a child, war, gun
Reading_ Tamishly
Feb 08, 2020 rated it really liked it
Finally! This is one book which is hundred percent what it's blurb described as.
I struggled to read this graphic memoir as it's intense and heavy at times. Trigger warnings for violent scenes and abuse and neglect. Vietnamese war times. I don't know what I was thinking when I picked up this one but it turned out to be one of the most memorable graphic novel reads ever. Even though the author claims that the events are true and they happened but most of the part seems like it's subjectively repr
#mystrangereading The Best We Could Do by Thi Bui ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️. Autobiographical/historical/memoir of Bui's own story and the story of her family's voyage out of devastation of the Vietnam War.

🎨 The artistry stands on its own as a beautiful, gorgeous, unique story.
🎨 The story was heart wrenching, inspiring and poignant.
🎨 My only issue came from the stream-of-conscience style of story-telling which just threw me all over the place emotionally and "physically" between the stories.

Overall, this is a
‘The Best We Could Do’ by Thi Bui is my first time to read a graphic novel. It’s a powerful illustrated memoir about a young Vietnamese woman havinng a baby, and recognizing at that moment her own essential link in her family’s story. Bui’s mother flew in from California to be with her daughter while she was in labor, and as Bui expresses so well, “but now that she’s here, she can’t bear to be in the same room.” Accompanying this caption is the picture of her mother standing out in a hallway cry ...more
Mariah Roze
Dec 01, 2017 rated it really liked it
This was a great autobiography graphic novel. The author talked about her parents leaving war-torn Vietnam and moving to the USA. This also shared the daughter's story of growing up an immigrant and very poor.

This is definitely worth a read!
Mar 18, 2018 rated it liked it
Well done graphic novel by a woman who came to the US with her family as Vietnamese refugees after the fall of Saigon. Thi Bui reconstructs her parents' paths from their childhoods to where/who they are now, and muses on how their respective pasts have shaped her own life.

Interesting and beautifully illustrated. I especially loved everything having to do with her father. Just.....for some reason, it did not resonate with me or emotionally engage me. Good, but I would have liked to have had a mor
Jul 29, 2018 rated it really liked it
This was incredible. The amount of time and work that had to go into its creation alone was fascinating. The tough conversations that took place between a daughter and her parents made me want to cringe and cry.

Thi Bui came to this country under a traumatic veil.Her family is from Vietnam and during the 60's and 70's she shows us how the country went to war with itself and the French influence on their culture. What it was like to grow up in a communist country and then forced to flee to protec

the art and the story were BEAUTIFUL
Reading Women Challenge 2018

5. A graphic novel or memoir

Not sure what I was expecting when I picked this one up to read each night before going to sleep. As someone who reads comics and graphic novels for academic research purposes, I thought that not much can surprise me, hence me naively thinking this will be a light read. Yet The Best We Could Do broke my heart in more ways than it mended it. And I am happy with that!

Bui’s visually stunning book is so much more than an immigrant story: he
Check out our live show discussion of this title here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lf0E-... ...more
Feb 19, 2022 rated it it was amazing
Each time I came back to this book I was easily engaged and became fully absorbed. I scribbled notes as I read. In some ways this is a painful book to read, however it is also a compelling and hopeful one. I was truly interested to learn more about Vietnam and Vietnamese culture and also became interested in the author's exploration of her relationship with her parents and how she came to understand them from learning of their life experience. I think that becoming a parent provides a shared exp ...more
Sep 16, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: those who like memoirs and/or graphic books
I loved this graphic memoir. The illustrations are gorgeous, the story grabbed me right away, and the pain of the author and her family’s past was beautifully depicted. They were refugees who moved to the U.S. after the Vietnam War, but that’s not all that the story is about. There is far more to it than that. It’s a story of a family, rather than just the Vietnam War.

This has to be one of the most emotionally-gripping books that I have read in a while.

My favorite quote:
“Proximity and closene
Monica Kim: musings of monica
May 07, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2018
Thi Bui’s “The Best We Could Do” made me cry thinking of my parents, and the endless sacrifices they made as immigrants raising a family in America, and everything that’s going on in our country today, It has to be one of the toughest decisions my parents had to make, leaving everything behind, and moving to an unknown, foreign country. All immigrants and child of immigrants know those “ugly” teenager phases we went through, we were so frustrated with our parents for not being able to speak Engl ...more
Iryna *Book and Sword*
3.5/5 stars

Oh, to be disappointed by ones own expectations!

Me not loving this book is absolutely not this book's fault. I just imagined something very different when I picked it up. I wanted more of family's relations, struggles to fit in and adjust, culture shock and such. And in a sense all of that was in the book, but on a very large and diffused scale.

The Best We Could Do is more of a family's saga that spans over generations while telling a very detailed war story. More of a history lesson
I read this book in one sitting (breathless, emotionally turned inside-out) and you should too.

Bui's family is different from mine in many ways, but I still experienced a sense of recognition on every page, as if her family life had been stitched together from patchwork pieces of mine, or vice versa. It's Thi Bui's truth, but I think it's a lot of other people's truth, too -- I won't use the word "universal," which I mistrust, but it has a sense of scope, of historical breadth. It's an intimate
Traci Thomas
Jun 12, 2021 rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed the book and the history of the Vietnam war from the perspective of multiple generations of a Vietnamese family and the ways that history lingered as they came to the USA. The history was my favorite parts. The book fizzled for me, or maybe it didn’t know how you end. The art is gorgeous and Bui has some wonderful humor sprinkled throughout.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »

Readers also enjoyed

  • I Was Their American Dream: A Graphic Memoir
  • They Called Us Enemy
  • Displacement
  • Messy Roots: A Graphic Memoir of a Wuhanese-American
  • Almost American Girl
  • The Magic Fish
  • Good Talk: A Memoir in Conversations
  • Seek You: A Journey Through American Loneliness
  • Vietnamerica: A Family's Journey
  • Can't We Talk about Something More Pleasant?
  • Crying in H Mart
  • American Born Chinese
  • Gender Queer
  • Minor Feelings: An Asian American Reckoning
  • When Stars Are Scattered
  • Wake: The Hidden History of Women-Led Slave Revolts
  • Grass
  • Spinning
See similar books…
See top shelves…
Thi Bui was born in Vietnam and immigrated to the United States as a child. She studied art and law and thought about becoming a civil rights lawyer, but became a public school teacher instead. Bui lives in Berkeley, California, with her son, her husband, and her mother. The Best We Could Do is her debut graphic novel.

Other books in the series

The Best We Could Do (3 books)
  • Labor (The Best We Could Do, #1)
  • Backwards (The Best We Could Do, #2)
  • Terror (The Best We Could Do, #3)

Articles featuring this book

March is Women’s History Month, dedicated to the study, observance, and celebration of the vital role of women in American history.   Some...
288 likes · 70 comments
“Maybe being their child simply means that I will always feel the weight of their past.” 37 likes
“Proximity and closeness are not the same.” 37 likes
More quotes…