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The Mountains Sing

4.31  ·  Rating details ·  6,409 ratings  ·  1,223 reviews
“An epic account of Viet Nam’s painful 20th century history, both vast in scope and intimate in its telling . . . Moving and riveting.” —VIET THANH NGUYEN, author of The Sympathizer, winner of the Pulitzer Prize

With the epic sweep of Min Jin Lee’s Pachinko or Yaa Gyasi’s Homegoing and the lyrical beauty of Vaddey Ratner’s In the Shadow of the Banyan, The Mountains Sing te
Hardcover, 342 pages
Published March 17th 2020 by Algonquin Books
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Maryellen Cyr I got mine from the local library. Only waited a couple of weeks. Well worth it! Beautiful book.
Mai Nguyễn Thanks for your interest. Readers from Sài Gòn have been able to purchase the ebook and the audiobook. Please give it a try and if you have difficulty…moreThanks for your interest. Readers from Sài Gòn have been able to purchase the ebook and the audiobook. Please give it a try and if you have difficulty getting a copy, kindly let me know. Many thanks.(less)

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Average rating 4.31  · 
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Mai Nguyễn
Dec 16, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  (Review from the author)
Dear Readers,

It took me seven years, hundreds of revisions, many sleepless nights, tears... and finally THE MOUNTAINS SING is here. I am so thankful to you - my precious Readers - for the gift of your time: time that you have spent or will spend with the Trần family in my novel.

Grandma Diệu Lan in THE MOUNTAINS SING is the grandmother I always wished for. Both my grandmothers had died before my birth and I wanted to have a grandma who would sing me lullabies, tell me the legends and tales of my
Angela M
Apr 05, 2020 rated it really liked it
This is a beautifully written story, but not an one easy to read. It’s a brutal portrayal of hardship, hunger, death, a history of the people of Vietnam spanning decades. But in spite of the fact that this is a history filled with the anguish of war, of hunger, of a changing society, it is filled with hope and love and pride of a people, in the beauty of their land as well as their customs and beliefs. The Vietnam War, remembered by many of us of a certain age with the focus on the loss of Ameri ...more
Jan 20, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction, vietnam-war
“That night and for the next many nights, to dry my tears, Grandma opened the door of her childhood to me. Her stories scooped me up and delivered me to the hilltop of Nghe An where I could fill my lungs with the fragrance of rice fields, sink my eyes into the Lam River, and become a green dot on the Truong Son mountain range. In her stories, I tasted the sweetness of sim berries on my tongue, felt grasshoppers kicking in my hands, and slept in a hammock under a sky woven by shimmering stars…I w ...more
Mar 07, 2020 rated it really liked it
I loved this book for its earnest and thoughtful rendering of Vietnam and its history. As a second generation Vietnamese American living in the United States, I did not get to learn much about my Vietnamese ancestry in the American education system. The few stories and narratives I was exposed to were often from a white or western perspective, either about a white man’s perspective of the war or an account written by a white person, often both. I want to learn more about my heritage so I am grat ...more
Gorgeous and miracle a poignant tale of resilience and heart. Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai's lush and vivid storytelling transported me to Vietnam. The story spans most of 20th century Vietnam told from alternating perspectives in dual timelines from grandmother and granddaughter. 1950s Trần Diệu Lan is Born the daughter of a wealthy farmer. As a young girl she was told by a palm reader that she would live a hard life and indeed she did. From the death of her father to the great hunger to the land reform ...more
Jennifer ~ TarHeelReader
Mar 22, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Beautiful! ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️

Have you ever loved a book so much it’s difficult to write about it? That was The Mountains Sing for me. This one has been compared to Homegoing (I LOVED!) and Pachinko (I’ve been “saving” for far too long). The writing in The Mountains Sing is exquisite. The author, Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai, is a poet, and she writes lyrically, without it being overdone.

From the synopsis because I can’t say it better, “An epic account of Việt Nam’s painful 20th century history, both vast in
Diane S ☔
Mar 21, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Tragic, courageous, beautiful and hopeful. These are the circumstances described in the multigenerational saga. Set against the background of the Vietnam War, this is the story of the Tran family. Raised as a child of a well off farmer, Tran Dish Lan, a mother with six children is unprepared for the brutality of the Land reform, as the Communist government rose to power in North Vietnam. Forced to flee, she struggles to keep her family together.

Years later we once again find this formidable woma
Apr 07, 2020 rated it really liked it
This is a beautiful yet heartbreaking and turbulent multigenerational story of one Vietnamese family told through the voices of two women..Huong Tran and her grandmother Dieu Lan.
It starts off in Ha Noi, with Huong and her grandmother running in search of a bomb shelter as their city is being bombed by the Americans.
A coming of age story of Huong... and a history of her grandmother living through the Great Hunger and The Land Reform, and escaping with five children under her wing.
A moving story
Nov 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A deeply moving story that spans the better part of a century, Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai displays a side of Việt Nam and the Vietnamese people that western audiences haven’t had much exposure to. We’re introduced to the Trần family through hardship and triumph alike, led by their unwavering matriarch Trần Diệu Lan. From French and Japanese occupation to both domestic and international conflict, this family is tested in ways that most of us can hardly begin to imagine.

Although quite beautiful, The Moun
May 07, 2020 rated it really liked it
"Wars have the power to turn graceful and cultured people into monsters.

I always appreciate novels that teach me something and this book certainly accomplished that, as I knew little about Vietnam or even the disastrous war America waged there.

The Mountains Sing follows one family through Vietnam's calamitous history, from the 1920s to 1979. It is devastating to read, heartbreaking. What this family and many others suffered is inconceivable to me. 

The story is narrated by the teenage Hương, born
Jeanette (Again)
March 18, 2020: This book is now available. My heart breaks for this author and other authors whose book tours are cancelled or postponed due to the pandemic. Please do what you can to encourage and support them.

How much privation and loss and violence can one small nation endure? If you were to study the history of Vietnam in the 20th century, it would almost seem as if the fates had set out to determine the answer to that question. Most of us are familiar with the Vietnam War from the American
Cindy Burnett
Jan 11, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book deserves all the stars and more. Beautifully and lyrically written, Nguyen Phan Que Mai’s English debut follows multiple generations of the Tran family against the background of Vietnam’s heartrending 20th century history. From the rise of the Communist government in North Vietnam to the years of conflict during the war itself, The Mountains Sing highlights the impact and cost of the events that led up to Vietnam War and the war itself on the Vietnamese people from their perspective wh ...more
Mar 29, 2020 rated it really liked it
Set in a split timeline, The Mountains Sing is about the survival of a family in Vietnam through famine, violence, war and hardship. Que Mai brings to life the conflict and divisions within the Tran family and their nation and helped me better understand 20th century Vietnamese history.
May 26, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
My heart is aching. Powerfully told through the voices of a grandmother and her granddaughter this novel propels the reader into the heart of the Vietnamese people’s struggle to survive during their country’s turbulent political past. Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai’s writing is raw, unadorned and ‘rough around the edges’ which lends perfectly to this story’s brutal authenticity and power. A silent masterpiece that will enlighten readers to Vietnam life much like The Kite Runner did for Afghanistan. Not an ...more
4.5 Stars

’In the yard, the longan tree was blooming, its blossoms spreading a dome of pearls atop its green canopy. Instead of bringing joy to my heart, the sight reminded me that life’s peaceful moments could be as short-lived as flowers—gone with a strong gust of wind.

An appalling, disturbing, if beautifully told, multi-generational family saga inspired by the things her own family endured, as well as other Vietnamese who shared their stories with the author. A story that is also hard to p
Jessica Kafka | JustReadingJess
Do you ever read a book that is so impactful you don’t have words? That was this book. I believe this was the first book I’ve read about the Vietnam War but definitely won’t be my last.

The Mountain Sing is a great story with so much emotion and struggle. I liked how different characters stories were told. The Mountain Sing is a moving, intense, and emotional story with family conflict, different political views, and loss. The Vietnam War is going on, so there is the expected loss and struggles.
Apr 07, 2020 rated it liked it
Some people find something hopeful in this book, but I am afraid that I do not. This book was relentlessly depressing, it was an episodic string of terrible events told alternately by Tran Dieu Lan and her granddaughter Huong. The Vietnamese have been victimized by the French, Japanese, Americans and each other. I’m really sorry I read this family saga of separation, starvation, war, rape, birth defects and assorted acts of cruelty. Maybe I just wasn’t in the mood for this degree of trauma. I re ...more
Jennifer Blankfein
Mar 14, 2020 rated it really liked it
Generations of Vietnamese families impacted by the war and fighting within the country - a beautiful story of family, struggles and the love that kept them connected. ...

I have recently read wonderful books by Vietnamese authors, Ocean Vuong (On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous) and Thannha Lai (Butterfly Yellow), and Chris Bohjalian’s new book (The Red Lotus) partially takes place in Vietnam. Each of those books pieces together for readers how beautiful the country is and how deeply rooted the peop
Apr 22, 2020 rated it really liked it
A multigenerational, dual timeline story of Vietnam in the 20th century, The Mountains Sing is a harrowing, while at the same time often poetic story of family finding strength to survive war, political and societal “reforms” that destroyed people and parts of their culture, turning neighbor against neighbor.

It is also the coming of age story of the youngest family member who hears all the family history through stories, develops a love of reading and eventually becomes a poet and writes a book
May 27, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Dieu Lan, the grandmother in this multi-generational story of Vietnam, tells her granddaughter why she hasn’t told her some of her tragic family history before: “We’re forbidden to talk about events that relate to past mistakes or the wrongdoing of those in power, for they give themselves the right to rewrite history, but you are old enough to know that history will write itself in people’s memories, and as long as those memories live on, we can have faith that we can do better.”

Dieu Lan is a fo
Mar 06, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
When I read this book, I was right away transported to the dense highlands and the lush tropical lowlands of Vietnam. Nguyen’s writing enveloped me into the lives of the characters who have experienced harrowing struggles and sufferings, as well as surviving triumphantly against all odds. This is an engrossing story told in the eyes of two generations of a family who have lived through horrific cruelty and hate brought upon by war. Inspired by real life events, Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai told a very en ...more
Dec 17, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: fans of family sagas
Thank you to NetGalley and Algonquin Books for providing me with an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

The Mountains Sing is a beautiful, heartbreaking novel of family, forgiveness, and perseverance by Vietnamese author Nguyen Phan Que Mai. It features a split timeline, which I usually avoid in historical fiction because so often one timeline is much better than the other(s). In this case, however, I enjoyed it. The two main timelines wove together to paint a picture of Vietnam’s rich culture
Dec 26, 2019 rated it really liked it
Writer Nguyen Phan Que Mai—herself a poet—quotes fellow poet Phung Quan midway through her book: “A circus rope walker balances breath-taking difficulties. Yet tougher still to be a writer enduring a lifetime on the path of truth.”

If this be her criteria, then Que Mai succeeds beautifully. All too many Americans have read Vietnamese writers who help them try to gain an understanding of the sad and futile Vietnamese War and our indefensible part in it. This author goes much further, bringing read
May 21, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
War Has No Happy Endings

“Mac? I feel that I am going to die tonight.
Will you change places with me?”
Mac climbed out of the foxhole,
and his buddy took his place.
In the morning hours,
Mac picked up his buddy’s
body parts, and placed them
in a bag to be sent home
from Vietnam.
For when death comes
it will find you no matter
where you are.

They named their daughter, Huong,
meaning, “Fragrant.”
When I took the Buddhist precepts
at Dai Dang Monastery,
my teacher named me
“Fragrant Herbs.
And Mac attended
Inquisitive Bookworm
This book left me absolutely speechless. THE MOUNTAINS SING by Nguyen Phan Que Mai is a multigenerational saga that follows the Tran family starting in 1920 during the Land Reform as the Communist government rose in the North, and decades later as the Vietnam War comes to a head.

Having studied the Vietnam War in school, I was never exposed to the other side of the story — the extreme hardships faced by the Vietnamese people before, during, and after the war, and specifically those residing in t
Jun 27, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"The challenges faced by Vietnamese people throughout history are as tall as the tallest mountains. If you stand too close, you won’t be able to see their peaks. Once you step away from the currents of life, you will have the full view...."

Narrated in turns by Hương and her grandmother Diệu Lan, The Mountains Sing positions you just far enough to see the peaks, the many challenges and tragedies that span these characters' lives from the 1920s to the 1970s. Personally, I struggle to keep fami
Elena L.
Mar 08, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Wars have the power to turn graceful and cultured people into monsters.

Can I already say that this book will be my favorite read of the year?

THE MOUNTAINS SING is a multi-generational tale of the Tran family, set against the backdrop of the Vietnam War. I was hooked from the beginning - told in multiple POVs and timelines, this book allows us a profound and rare glimpse into the Vietnamese history. There are vivid descriptions and heartfelt emotions that bring the words to life. Beautifully wr
Dec 16, 2019 rated it really liked it
Vietnam is a country of great beauty and cultural richness. And I knew, historically at least, this is a country that was cruelly ravaged by the Great Hunger and Land Reform during which millions died and that these events gave rise to communism. I also knew about its exploitation by the French and Japanese as wells as the bombing etc. by the Americans. However, I knew nothing about the experiences or mindset of the people themselves. My ignorance is addressed as the author tells the story of fo ...more
You can tell that Nguyen Phan Que Mai is a poet by the lyricism of her prose. The audio version lends itself nicely to hearing the song behind her words. Though perhaps I would have been better served reading the print version because my mind is all over the place these days. I am really having a hard time focusing but I know that it is me and not the books I'm reading. That being said this is a strong debut. I'm looking forward to rereading it after the world resets itself. Perhaps then it will ...more
Sherwood Smith
When I first immerse into a book I am no longer I, but ego dissolves away into an eye, absorbed completely into the world of the story, remerging at the end with that snap of the spiritual umbilicus. I use birth imagery here in part because the emotions seem to be akin in a way; the joy that comes of an intensely immersive book whelms that painful separation and summary reintroduction of the I.

The Mountains Sing is just such an immersive book.

Covering four generations, weaving back and forth fro
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Born into the Việt Nam War in 1973, Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai grew up witnessing the war’s devastation and its aftermath. She worked as a street seller and rice farmer before winning a scholarship to attend university in Australia. She is the author of eight books of poetry, fiction and non-fiction published in Vietnamese, and her writing has been translated and published in more than 10 countries, most ...more

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