If I Had Two Lives
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...more
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'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 ...more
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 ...more
Thank you Netgalley and Europa Editions for the advance copy, which was provided in exchange for an honest review.
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 ...more
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 ...more
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 ...more
She befriends a little girl she ...more
I won a copy of this book in a Goodreads giveaway for this honest review.
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 ...more
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 ...more
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 ...more
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 ...more
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 ...more
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 ...more