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If I Had Two Lives
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If I Had Two Lives

3.72  ·  Rating details ·  64 ratings  ·  32 reviews

This luminous debut novel follows a young woman from her childhood in Vietnam to her life as an immigrant in the United States – and her necessary return to her homeland.

As a child, isolated from the world in a secretive military encampment with her distant mother, she turns for affection to a sympathetic soldier and to the only other girl in the camp, forming two friendships t

Paperback, 240 pages
Published April 9th 2019 by Europa Editions
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Average rating 3.72  · 
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 ·  64 ratings  ·  32 reviews

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Lolly K Dandeneau
Mar 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing
via my blog:
'My mother had no daughter. It was her gift to me.'

The novel begins in Vietnam as our young narrator is reunited with her mother, living under protection inside a military camp after she comes to the dangerous attention of the Prime Minister for her work as an energy consultant “bringing electricity to hundreds of districts in Vietnam”. Angering those corrupted by greed who would rather abuse the funds by “buying defunct equipment” keeping the wealth for themselves,he

Visit the locations in the novel

This is such an emotional read. I really hesitated with the star rating. For a book with these themes and subject matter, stars always seem wrong somehow. The writing was good but I struggled with the subject and it was a tough read given the violence and brutality against women.

We meet the narrator of this novel in Vietnam as she is there to meet her mother who is living in a military camp. She’s there for her own protection since she works as an energy consultant and not every
The premise of this sounded like it had great potential - following a young woman from her childhood in a military encampment Vietnam to her eventual move to America but I found the characters hard to care about and the plot points implausible. I get why the main character was supposed to be motivated to make the decisions she did... but I didn't buy it, things felt so forced. Not for me.

Thank you Netgalley and Europa Editions for the advance copy, which was provided in exchange for an honest review.
Apr 06, 2019 rated it liked it
This is possibly the first book I've read and not known anyones name which feels weird. It's also one of the few books where I've disliked every single character, which I have a feeling was the intention.

Set between Vietnam and the States this is a story about the various layers of relationships. The complicated layers of relationships.

While I didnt like any of the characters, while I didnt bond with anyone at all and they all remain nameless to me, I actually quite enjoyed this. Its beautiful
Feb 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing
So entranced was I by this book that I slowed my reading toward the end to prolong my time with the story and its characters. The writing is hauntingly beautiful with precise descriptions that don’t shy away from grotesque or difficult realities. It’s a story of the search for belonging (in both place and people), of deep and compassionate friendships, of journeys: from one country to another, from childhood to adolescence, adolescence to adulthood. If you're looking for a read with spell-bindin ...more
Ash Mayfair
Jan 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing
If I Had Two Lives, I would read this book again so that I could rediscover the gorgeous, devastating story anew. This is a work of staggering beauty and compassion, portraying the themes of friendship, motherhood, family and belonging with deft lyricism. I could not put it down.
Novel set in NEW YORK and VIETNAM

If I Had Two Lives is a brilliant debut novel in two parts. Abbigail, like the heroine in the book, was brought up in Vietnam until the age of twelve and then moved to the United States. The first half of the book describes life in Vietnam for our nameless heroine (the book is written in the first person throughout and she never tells us her name…). From th
Carmel Hanes
An interesting novel, but a bit of an uneven read for me.

I really enjoyed the first part of the story, which introduced us to a young girl being reunited with a mother who'd left her three years earlier. As seen through the young girl's eyes the relationship between them is somewhat strained and remote. Even when physically present, mother is not particularly warm or nurturing. The protagonist befriends another child in the camp where they live, and is more warmly treated by a soldier there to
Kim Richardson
Apr 05, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Gorgeous storytelling that haunts and will stay with you long after the last page.
Claire McAlpine
A young girl joins her mother in a Vietnamese military camp at the age of four, after not seeing her for some years and struggles to connect with her in the way her heart yearns, instead becoming overly attentive to trying to please her in a way that children who can't take having parents there for them for granted might react. She succeeds in attaching herself to the solider who accompanies here whenever she has to go anywhere, even though he discourage it.
She befriends a little girl she
Vanessa vermette
Mar 29, 2019 rated it it was ok

This story was interesting but it wasn't for me. I thought it missed some deeper meaning. There was a lot of facts and not enough description of how the protagonist felt. A lot happened to her and it was like it flew right pass her head.🙁
Feb 13, 2019 rated it really liked it
Beautiful characters, an incredible story. Heartbreaking and compelling.
Vivek Tejuja
Apr 24, 2019 rated it really liked it
Sometimes you just don’t know what to make of a book till you are done reading and pondering a bit over it. If I Had Two Lives was that kind of read for me. This is a coming of age book, it is also a book about an immigrant in the United States of America, and it is also about going back home. Honestly, it might also seem been there, done that (and I also felt that on reading the blurb), but it isn’t that at all. I think every book no matter how similar the plot line to another book, always has ...more
Emi Bevacqua
The book opens in 1998 Vietnam, when the 7-yr old narrator is reunited with her mother at a Vietnamese military camp, where the mom might be some kind of political dissident? All the girl's relationships throughout the story are extreme: from abusive and obsessive to abject neglect. As a child the girl's only companions are a soldier who tutors her, and a traumatized little girl she befriends and creates havoc with. Part Two takes place years later in the US, when at the age of 24 she replaces h ...more
Mar 31, 2019 rated it it was ok
I don't feel like I got the essence and message of this book. The story itself was flat to me. It should have been one that pulled at my heartstrings but it really didn't. I thought it was confusing, forlorn, haunting, fragmented ... I could go on and on. Somehow I believe that there is more to this book that I missed and perhaps another reader will see it entirely differently than I did.
I won a copy of this book in a Goodreads giveaway for this honest review.
Benny Regalbuto
Jul 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I took a solo trip to San Francisco last month, bringing three books with me. Upon returning home to New York, that number had increased to twelve. If I Had Two Lives was one of the books responsible for that increase.

I'll admit, this is not the kind of book I usually read. I picked it up at City Lights Bookstore in SF because... well, because I thought the woman on the cover was really pretty. Like, REALLY pretty. The blurb happened to sound interesting, too, but when I looked at th
Oct 03, 2019 rated it really liked it
Originally reviewed for Chick Lit Central (

If I Had Two Lives presents with a stark, raw view of the world, yet within the rawness we see moments of beauty and hope. As the child is thrown into an abyss of madness, not knowing where she is or really, who she is, the reader feels every emotion and we see her struggles in fighting against the horrific situation she’s in. In many scenes, there is uncertainty with her mother. In many
Oct 08, 2019 rated it really liked it
The protagonist narrator of Abbigail Rosewood’s If I had two Lives hides behind other people’s emotions like a child hiding behind her mother’s skirt. But this child, growing up in a Vietnamese military camp, gets little support from her mother and latches onto another lonely girl for guidance and companionship instead.

The first part of the novel gives an evocative portrayal of postwar Vietnamese life and trials through the eyes of a child. In a world of men, two girls are vulnerable
Victoria Sadler
Jun 19, 2019 rated it liked it
I had picked this book up solely for its subject matter as it follows a young woman from her childhood in a military encampment Vietnam for a new life in the United States – the two lives referred to in the title – and an examination of what we can and can’t leave behind when we try to turn the page.

It sounded like my kind of book and there is certainly much to enjoy here but this is a novel more about trauma and its legacy rather than a clash of cultures. That’s not to say I didn’t
Jul 09, 2019 rated it liked it
If I Had Two Lives is a novel about a woman born in Vietnam who came to the United States at the age of twelve, written by a woman born in Vietnam who came to the United States at the age of twelve. So, in a sense, Abbigail Rosewood has the two lives of her title: the one she actually lived and the one she fictionalized and wrote about. She says as much in her acknowledgments, explaining that the "novel was born out of the aching pleasure of rearranging memories, reinventing the past--a personal ...more
Xen Xen
Apr 16, 2019 rated it really liked it
TW: various forms of child abuse, pedophilia; explicit scenes as well as various mentions. A good book that suffers from severely dishonest marketing.

Before anything else, this novel is about reconciling trauma, and how childhood trauma specifically seeps into every part of your life, even when you don't admit it.

Full of "magic phrases", and a stark hypocrisy that feels true to life.

By the synopsis and blurbs, I really thought this would be a novel about the experience of being a c
Oct 07, 2019 rated it liked it
I did like this book. Although, I found that I struggled with finding the strong emotional connection that this type of book requires.

Our young woman is a good narrator. She does bring me the reader into her world. I instantly got a good visual into what life was like for her. Therefore, I understood her "obsession" with the solider and young girl. Which in turn transpired into her new life in America.

What I struggled with is that the other characters were "faceless". In what I mean by this is
Kathleen Gray
Apr 01, 2019 rated it really liked it
To be honest, I'm not entirely sure what to make of this tragic tale of a woman who emigrates from Vietnam to the US, bringing with her a huge psychic burden. Framed in three parts of the narrator's life, it follows her from a military camp, through various places in the US, and finally to Montauk, where she falls under the thrall of Lilah. Clearly damaged, clearly missing her family and a connection to the world, the narrator is someone you'll feel for and also wonder about. Thanks to Edelweiss ...more
Apr 23, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: bildungsroman
Lovely debut.
Sep 06, 2019 rated it did not like it
The plot does not make sense, the writing very mediocre, I had hard time getting through the book.
Jul 07, 2019 rated it really liked it
The story is well written with vivid details. The main character is one you can relate to as she grows and tries to figure out her place in the world.
Anne Goodwin
Apr 27, 2019 rated it really liked it
a fresh take on dislocation and insecure attachment, with a nod to the side of Vietnam tourists never see.
Full review
Childhood obsession rekindled: If I Had Two Lives & Poet and Dancer
Patrick Tierney
Jun 08, 2019 rated it liked it
A book that works in sections, especially when the protagonist is focused on her culture as it relates to her own development. It works in seeing her own inner emotional truths and conflicts. The couple in the middle section of the book, however, reads as a bit of a cartoon.
Jun 29, 2019 rated it liked it
I found myself waiting for something to happen and when tragic moments do happen they're gone before you can process. She seems disconnected from her emotions entirely and life only happens around her. Maybe that's the point?
A novel that is separated into two parts with the first part beginning the story in Vietnam in the 1990’s and is focussed on a young girl who remains nameless throughout and is brought to this decaying military camp with her mother. If I Had Two Lives (Europa Editions) by Abbigail N. Rosewood tells the story of the young girl who from the age of four through to the age of twelve is kept behind the wire fence in the camp along with her mother. The story is very much in the first person narrative ...more
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Abbigail N. Rosewood holds a Master of Fine Arts in Fiction from Columbia University. In 2012, she was the recipient of the Michael Baughman Fiction Award and the Outstanding Graduating Student in Creative Writing Award from Southern Oregon University. Her works have been published in literary journals online and in print, including The Adirondack Review, Columbia Journal, Green Hills Literary Lan ...more