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So Happiness to Meet You: Foolishly, Blissfully Stranded in Vietnam
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So Happiness to Meet You: Foolishly, Blissfully Stranded in Vietnam

4.09  ·  Rating details ·  275 ratings  ·  46 reviews
After job losses and the housing crash, the author and her family leave L.A. to start over in a most unlikely place: a nine-foot-wide back-alley house in one of Ho Chi Minh City's poorest districts, where neighbors unabashedly stare into windows, generously share their barbecued rat, keep cockroaches for luck, and ultimately help her find joy without Western trappings.

Paperback, 256 pages
Published July 11th 2017 by Prospect Park Books
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Jill Dobbe Hi Penny, I am an intl educator who also writes about the places I live and work in (India, Egypt, Ghana). If interested here is the link to my books:…moreHi Penny, I am an intl educator who also writes about the places I live and work in (India, Egypt, Ghana). If interested here is the link to my books:

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Average rating 4.09  · 
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 ·  275 ratings  ·  46 reviews

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Dec 07, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
I loved every second of it! The author writes with such warmth about her two year stay in Vietnam (and among the locals, and not a part of the expat community!) - I feel like I know her vastly engaging neighbours personally.
Sep 07, 2017 added it
Shelves: bio
A book that I could not put down. Easily read in 2 days. Funny, laugh out loud kind of book. It gives one an insight to another culture. My mother in law is from Vietnam and I was able to connect with what was written. I thoroughly enjoyed this book.
Sep 01, 2017 rated it really liked it
Karin Esterhammer worked as a journalist in LA for many years. When the economy tanked, she lost her job and the family’s main source of income. She and her husband decided to live for a year in Vietnam, where she would work as a freelance writer and parent their young son, and he would teach English. Sounds simple, right? Well, things weren’t exactly that easy, but the way she relates her story is engrossing, readable, and touching. The tale is filled with humor and appreciation for the culture ...more
Sep 12, 2018 rated it it was ok
I must take some time to digest what I read - but I neither loved it or hated it but I do know that I disliked Karin and Robin (the point of the book) quite a lot.
Aug 01, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I loved this book! The author did a wonderful job of bringing her experience to life - I could absolutely picture the neighborhood and all the many characters - who were real life people. She paints an honest picture of life in Vietnam that is eye opening, especially to Americans who perhaps have not considered the conditions in that country once the Vietnam war was over. Highly recommend.
Phú Ông
Sep 09, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I loved the book! It is very interesting to read about an American experience of living for 3 years in my home country. I love how Karin narrated the story. The sense of humor is subtle and light. Would definitely recommend the book.
Jun 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing
So fabulous. I felt like I was there the whole time! A good hearted read with some laugh out loud moments. Thoroughly enjoyed :)
Lauren Erdmann-Rued
Dec 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing
One of my favorite non-fiction books of the year! Esterhammer wrote with such amazing detail and genuine love of the country that it made not only more excited for our upcoming visit, but also made me want to move there and experience all Vietnamese culture has to offer. This book literally had me laughing out loud more than once and I highly recommend it for anyone interested in Vietnam or travel memoirs.
Jul 01, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Delightful read! Karin moves her family to Vietnam in 2008 after loosing her job. She thinks renting out their house in L.A. and living in Vietnam, which she thinks will be less expensive will help them recover financially. The family's adjustment to the cultural differences are treated with warmth and humor. You felt as though her neighbors were your friends, too.
Lisa Tener
Jul 23, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: memoir
Love this book! Really gives you a sense of the people and place beyond a travel memoir, since the author actually lived there--and not in an expat community either. The author's sense of humor contributes to a wonderful read.
Ciara Johnson
Oct 22, 2017 rated it it was ok
This is a lighthearted adventure of three years in Vietnam after the 2010 housing crash. It's not a bad little story about the town I live in, but I think it fails to capture much of what is good about being here.
Gaelynn Thurman
Oct 29, 2017 rated it it was amazing
A wonderful journey through a trying time, filled with humor and grace. A talented lady indeed.
Mar 18, 2019 rated it really liked it
A great look into living in a different country. Very descriptive & fun to read.
Oct 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: giveaways, nf, memoir, travel
Esterhammer’s background in writing makes this book a delightful read. Feelings, humor and challenging situations are shared with great insight and tact. The memoir is a very entertaining and quick read, with frequent chapter breaks, making it easy to pick up and put down. It would be especially appealing to those who love to travel and/or experience other cultures.

After the recession hits their Los Angeles family hard, Karin, Robin and their adopted son Kai move to Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.
Sep 22, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book was a wonderful diversion from the pressures of my Western life. I laughed out loud several times and there are some deep observations about Vietnamese culture and language. The writing is personal and engaging. The most amusing portions are often hidden in plain sight. I'll let you find those gems. The author is quite open about her shortcomings and foibles which is certainly braver than I could be in such a book!

The only real negative was the fact that I wondered how her neighbors
Marianne Wason
Mar 31, 2018 rated it liked it
I give it a three with some hesitance. A lot of glib humor at the expense of those she professes to like -- and a gleeful self-absorption that made me stop reading for a couple weeks. But I'm glad I finished the book. I learned a lot, but I wish she hadn't offered so many repetitive anecdotes and had given us more insight into Vietnam from her unique perspective as the only American--the only foreigner--living in her neighborhood of Ho Chi Minh City for two years (2008-2010). She enjoys writing ...more
Julie Katz
Jan 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Required reading if you are visiting Vietnam

I read this book on the plane on the way to Vietnam. I wanted a book about the people of Vietnam and not the war. This book fit the bill exactly. Everything Esterhammer says about the Vietnamese people is absolutely true. From the English without the last syllable to the way they drive, she was spot on. They are also the most gracious and kind people.

This was a quick and enjoyable read, even if you are only dreaming of going to Vietnam.
Jan 31, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I love travel writing and this author seemed to really immerse herself in Vietnam which of course, led to a very enriching experience. I loved her descriptions of the food, markets, transportation and her district but mostly, I enjoyed the characters. Her interactions with neighbors, tutors, landlords and more make this story one to really embrace you. It felt like I got a good insider’s view of what it might be like to live in Vietnam for a few years.
Petrea Burchard
Jan 30, 2018 rated it really liked it
The story of this family's sojourn in Ho Chi Minh City, formerly known as Saigon, is lovingly told. The people Karin Esterhammer met there clearly filled her heart. The neighborhood she's moved to is poor, and the people there have stories of sadness, impoverishment, and resilience to tell. They share them with Karin Esterhammer and thank goodness they do, because she shares them so generously with us. A sweet, humorous look at a place I'd love to visit.
Nov 24, 2018 rated it really liked it
A California couple and their young son move to way-lower-cost-of-living Vietnam for a couple years to weather the 2008 economic downturn. Author Karin Esterhammer's memoir is unique among travel logs in that the family isn't traveling to tourist traps but instead settling into an apartment in a poor district of Ho Chi Minh City and creating longstanding and loyal relationships. I enjoyed the author's authenticity and humor. Short chapters that move along make it accessible and easy to read.
Jan Brooks
Apr 24, 2018 rated it really liked it
Sweet, sweet emotional story of a family who moves to Viet Nam to wait out the recession of 2008. Did they expect to fall in love with the country--I'm not sure. And I'd love to hear more from the point of view of Robin the husband and Kai the 8 year old son. I loved reading about the culture and the people. Very enjoyable.
Sep 22, 2018 rated it really liked it
Reading this was my vicarious experience of teaching abroad. It also helps me understand my Vietnamese students better.

"Instead of counting my blessings, I'd been discounting them." (p. 237)
Feb 13, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: places
Solid 3.5. Quick and enjoyable read, although she occasionally got on my nerves. I wasn’t sure how I felt about the direct transcription of broken English, although I also didn’t know how else it could’ve been written.
Jan 04, 2018 rated it really liked it
The first memoir I've read by anyone who moved to Viet Nam. Expected it to be interesting because of locale, but it was more than that; the author is a wonderful writer - laugh-out-loud funny. This is her only book, usually she's a travel writer. Hoping for more.
Reba Birmingham
Dec 01, 2017 rated it really liked it
The book is very honest and readable. It takes you on a journey to Vietnam and introduces you to the people she met. A really nice memoir.
Apr 09, 2018 rated it really liked it
Fascinating and thoroughly enjoyable. See for details!
Lisa Williams
Dec 27, 2017 rated it really liked it
Interesting to learn more about the culture of the people of Viet Nam. The author has a way of writing that will make one laugh out loud at times.
Jun 17, 2018 rated it it was amazing
What a wonderful read, I felt like I was living next door to Karen and her family. I laughed out loud and snickered until I cried in the end
Jan 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Delightful . Laughed alot !
Feb 05, 2019 rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed this humorous and up close look at what life is like for some in Vietnam.
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