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Bitter in the Mouth

3.63  ·  Rating details ·  2,117 ratings  ·  393 reviews
From Monique Truong, the bestselling and award-winning author of The Book of Salt, comes a brilliant, mesmerizing, beautifully written novel about a young woman’s search for identity and family, as she uncovers the secrets of her past and of history.

Growing up in the small town of Boiling Springs, North Carolina, in the 70’s and 80’s, Linda believes that she is profoundly
Hardcover, 304 pages
Published August 31st 2010 by Random House
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Jessica McNeice SORRY DIDNT GET TO FINISH MY QUESTION: So I am confused to why Troung filed the entirety of revelation under one day, when it clearly takes place beyo…moreSORRY DIDNT GET TO FINISH MY QUESTION: So I am confused to why Troung filed the entirety of revelation under one day, when it clearly takes place beyond where she finished her "revelation." i.e the revelation about her family and birth parents and even wade is later than the date suggests. why werent these later revelations filed under a third part, or the date set later. OR was there a revelation before and I missed it? the story line doesnt end until september(less)

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Nov 26, 2013 rated it it was amazing
this book is simply fantastic. i consider it nothing short of a masterpiece. as i was reading it i kept thinking, how did she do it?

but she did it.

the story is nothing one can summarize and make the book sound as enticing as it is. what makes this book worth reading in spades is the absolute genius, the delightful brilliance of its composition. which composition reveals itself slowly. after the first few chapters the only thing that kept me reading was the loveliness of the language. about hal
Dec 24, 2010 rated it liked it
This is a book that is easy to fall into. The setting, characters have a familiar lilt to it, reminiscent of Southern classics like To Kill A Mockingbird. The main character's synesthesia allows for some interestingly poetic interpretations of classic scenes (boy meets girl scenes, especially). Others have mentioned that the book is a little self-conscious. I think it started out more charming and engaging than self-conscious, but toward the middle some of the "Southern" story characterizations, ...more
Susan (aka Just My Op)
Sep 14, 2010 rated it really liked it
This lovely book is literary Southern Lit with a bit of a twist. Linda is a child who can taste certain spoken words, is sometimes bombarded with tastes. Her mother is distant. Her acerbic grandmother, on her death bed, tells Linda, “What I know about you, little girl, would break you in two.” Her father loves her. But most of all, she has her great-uncle, Baby Harper. I love this character, my favorite in the entire book. He was Linda's soft place to land, the person who knew and accepted her j ...more
Nov 09, 2011 rated it it was ok
Shelves: fiction
The protagonist of this novel is a young woman who experiences tastes when she hears words. The story is of her adolesence and early adulthood. I found this book to be rather gimmick-y and annoying. Tangents about Viginia Dare, the Wright brothers, and a poet who was a slave kept popping up. A more saavy reader probably could make sense of this, but I kept thinking "Again with Virginia Dare?" And, frankly, as an Ohioan, I'm always annoyed by North Carolinians claiming the Wright brothers. Dayton ...more
May 25, 2012 rated it really liked it

I was completely enchanted by Monique Truong's first novel, The Book of Salt. Of course, it was set in Paris, with a fictional Vietnamese immigrant who served as cook to Gertrude Stein and Alice B Toklas. So tasty.

Bitter in the Mouth is set in the American south, but as I know from William Faulkner, the south can be another country to a northerner like me. In that area of the United States they have their own customs, including a finely honed talent for not noticing the most obvious matters when
Feb 07, 2011 rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed the middle of this book. I liked almost all the characters, and I was drawn in to the story. I carried this book with me, hoping for a few moments here or there to learn what would happen next. I was actually disappointed when I found no line at all on my errand to the post office because I was sure I'd be able to get a few more pages in while waiting!

The beginning was a bit slow, and it took some time to get used to the author's habit of coming back to the same people and event
Amy Bradley
Feb 25, 2011 rated it it was ok
On the cover is a beatiful magnolia and the book is set in North Carolina which are two positives for me. Boy was I disappointed. The main character's grandmother says some memorable words on her death bed that leads the main character on a search for who she is. She has synaesthesia so she tastes words. I don't really know what this added to the story other than it made it hard to read. "Lindamint, youcannedgreenbeans may have forTriscuitgotten this, but youcannedgreenbeans had gone off to Yale ...more
Aug 24, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: own
What if words had taste? I bet we'd be kinder to our kin...Linda, the protagonist, suffers from "synethesia" which converts words into flavours. It is a neurological disorders and has no known cure.

Ultimately, though, the novel becomes a moving investigation of invented families and small-town subterfuge, a search for self heightened by the legacy of Vietnam and the flavors of language. Binding everything together is a new Southerner’s deeply American recognition that “we all need a story of whe
Apr 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: the-south
Wow! I highly recommend this one. It’s a multi-sensory experience and an important look at life in the South.
Sep 19, 2010 rated it really liked it
It’s been a long time since I’ve been introduced to a character as original as Linda – a woman who suffers from auditory-gustatory synesthesia. Or, in simpler terms, she has the rare ability to “taste” words as a result of a “neurological condition that caused the involuntary mixing of the senses.”

Monique Truong represents her condition by marrying tastes with words; for example, “I thought youcannedgreenbeans knewpeanut butter.” Or “Lindamint. Stopcannedcorn it!” While the narrative can become
Feb 10, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This book was so gorgeous, well-wrought, and surprising that I really can't do it justice. Go read it! The narrator experiences synesthesia, so when we read the words she hears, they are interrupted with snippetsgreen beans of flavorsoverripe bananas that make it difficulttoothpaste to discern the initial importcayenne of the messagemayonnaise. Not only is this beautiful--in the way that Nabokov's elaborate gamesmanship and seductive style in Lolita is beautiful (and Nabokov happened to be a syn ...more
Oct 02, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
While Linda is growing up in the small town of Boiling Springs, North Carolina, back in the 70s and 80s, she knows that she is different from everyone else, even the members of her own family. She "tastes" words. When she hears or speaks them, an association with a flavor bombards her, which she calls "incomings."

Her best friend Kelly writes letters to her, first to launch their friendship, and then to connect with her afterwards, even though they live in the same neighborhood. The letter connec
Aug 03, 2011 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I was really excited that I won this from Goodreads(Thank You!) But this book was not good at all. The description of the book sounded pretty interesting, so that's why I entered the giveaway. But it just did not hold my interest. I am about halfway done with the book but I have not picked it up since October so I decided to finally just write a review. I do plan on finishing it eventually but I'm really not interested in finishing it at the moment. I hate not finishing a book though, but I just ...more
Jan 14, 2011 rated it really liked it
There’s only one word for this book: compelling. Truong is a huge talent.

Once you become accustomed to the “foreign language” the narrator-protagonist speaks – that certain words create tastes in her mouth – the journey of a woman into her past childhood memories takes you on a journey into your own past. Do you remember the first time you tasted soda pop, and the fizz alarmed you?

I am intrigued by this author’s use of a synesthetic character to help readers as adults examine how the child-versi
Jan 05, 2012 rated it really liked it
I love the way Troung strings words together, but this book is still not an easy one to follow. As a reader, there are places you want to go, strands you want to follow, but Troung doesn't let you. She is in control and you are dragged along her path at her speed. Its as though she opens doors and gives you a fleeting glimpse inside, but then closes it and suddenly tugs you down a completely different hallway, all the while you're digging in your heels screaming, "Wait! I want to see more of wha ...more
Ciji W
Aug 22, 2011 rated it it was ok
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Aug 31, 2010 rated it really liked it
Monique Truong's Bitter in the Mouth is an elegantly written novel that expands the world of Southern literature with its Vietnamese narrator, Linda(mint). In an age of increasingly globalization and migration, Truong challenges the typical definition of Southerner.

I loved the varied relationships in the book, from the very real girlhood friendship between Linda and Kelly to Linda seeking solace with her great uncle Baby Harper. Linda struggles with being an outsider while grappling with a cond
Aug 16, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 100-in-2011
2011 Book 37/2011

Oh, Monique Truong, you are my novelist crush. I couldn't stop raving about, returning to, and thinking of, her first book "The Book of Salt" and I finally read her newest, "Bitter in the Mouth" last night. And I loved it. Not quite in the same swooning and exclamatory way that I loved "The Book of Salt", but similiar. A novel that features a cross-dressing and loving great-uncle called "Baby Harper" by the whole family who completely stole my heart, a main character with lexica
Aug 22, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: asian, asian-author
Don't know why, but I like M. Truong's style of writing, having read both her books (Book of Salt first).

Bitter in the Mouth follows the life of Linda, who is adopted into a Southern family with a cast of definitely different personalities. Grandmother Iris is rather cold. Great uncle Harper's family nickname is Baby, and is the family homosexual; he has a special rapport with Linda. Mother DeAnne is rather aloof. Father was an attorney and passes away from a massive heart attack.

Linda has a r
Nov 25, 2017 rated it it was ok
I don't feel like this novel really went anywhere. It reads like a transcript of a meandering therapy session, and not a terribly interesting one. With the exception of Baby Harper, the characters are dull as rocks. I didn't care about Linda at all. The "revelations" are duds. (view spoiler) I dreaded reading the dialogue b ...more
Apr 21, 2013 rated it it was ok
I had a like/hate relationship with this book. The book was hard to read; Linda has synesthesia, the kind where most words have a taste. It would be more interesting if it weren't so hard to read through the words and tastes combined, differentiated only by italics. I can't imagine how the audio book dealt with it. The plot itself, of Linda's relationship with her mother, her rape, being an outsider in a small Southern town, just went to slowly for me. All if it was interesting, just...too slow. ...more
Apr 13, 2017 rated it really liked it
I loved this book! It was way more than a coming-of-age story. The rich interplay of words, tastes, and visual images made it linger in my mind long after I had put it down. I was sad when it ended and I actually went back and reread a few parts to make sure I understood how they fit in with the larger story. I hope to be able to use it in a book discussion group in the library where I work.
Jun 30, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: book-club
One of the best books I have read in a while. Gorgeous writing, and I love how it played with my assumptions.
Bookworm Extraordinaire
Really Really enjoyed this one!
Apr 14, 2021 marked it as dnf  ·  review of another edition
Read about 40 pages of this book and could not stand it. This is all "tell" and no "show". When a writer tries to overwrite something like a bus trip and turn it into something poetic, I throw in the towel. Truong is obviously a talented writer, but I'm not willing to invest in this one. ...more
Amrit Grewal
Mar 03, 2018 rated it it was ok
Well this book was a thinker for sure.
See when i read a book i want to lose myself to the world that the author has created. But because this book was a thinker, and so many events like the Vietnam War actual did occur in real life it was so hard to lose myself when reading this novel.
To begin this review like any other lets begin with the Pros: I loved the main character Linda Hammerick but who's birth name was actually Linh-Dao Nguyen Hammerick. It wasn't until this point that i realized she
Kellyann Navarre
Jan 06, 2018 rated it liked it
At some parts, I would have given this book 2 stars. Overall, I finished the book and give it 3 stars. It would have been four or five stars without some of the tangents about the Wright Brothers, history of Carolina, etc... I had a hard time getting through this drawn out description. Other descriptions of the book seemed very drawn out as well, and I just kept skipping over chunks. I almost put the book down. The author seems to spend more time describing random details and bits of unrelated s ...more
Lolly K Dandeneau
Sep 26, 2010 rated it it was amazing
This novel is incredible. Linda has synaesthesia, she tastes words. As you read, you see it is both a gift and a curse. Bitter in the Mouth is about so much more than Synaesthesia though. It is complicated relationships, secrets, bigotry and all those things are written in a believable way. Linda's uncle BABY HARPER was such a beautiful character that his story just made me ache. I haven't read anything quite this strange in years. There are moments when reading the tastes that come to Linda's t ...more
Sep 13, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Loved this book. I was taken in on the first page. I can't think of the right word to describe her prose and unique point of view. No one word seems exactly right...exquisite? quirky? poignant? elegant? singular? soigne? funny? I liked this book on so many levels. Her craftsmanship as a writer was a delight. I loved how her story unfolded. There were clues along the way so the revelations did not come as a complete surprise. I like the South. I thought the author must have spent time there to un ...more
May 28, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I've just begun this book, and am already in love. Linda tells us she loved her mother from age seven to eleven--four good years. It is refreshing to read a book by a woman who had a difficult relationship with her mother. (Every other woman author seems to have adored her mother, who was the most beautiful, most loving creature ever to walk the earth. I often miss my mother something fierce, but it was never easy or smooth between us. I finally have an author with whom I feel some level of iden ...more
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Around the Year i...: Bitter in the Mouth, by Monique Truong 2 20 Sep 01, 2016 08:13PM  
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Ladies' Home Jour...: Let's Talk About: Bitter In The Mouth - September 2011 1 10 Mar 14, 2012 01:53PM  

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MONIQUE TRUONG, born in Saigon, came to the U.S. as a refugee. She currently lives in New York City. Her first novel, The Book of Salt, was a New York Times Notable Book and a national bestseller. It won the New York Public Library Young Lions Fiction Award, the Bard Fiction Prize, the Stonewall Book Award-Barbara Gittings Literature Award, and the 7th Annual Asian American Literary Award. Her sec ...more

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“Because of my secret sense, I have always preferred the stories in the pages of books to those on the screen, but no matter the medium there seemed to be an overriding message: I was lucky to have a mother.
Rapunzel was taken away from her mother at birth. Her mother didn't even get to name her and probably wouldn't have chosen the name Rapunzel. Snow White and Gretel had stepmothers who plotted their violent deaths while Cinderella's own stepmother contemplated a slow death for her via the drudgery of housework and the crippling lack of a social life. Girls without their mothers were clearly at risk. Though in most of these stories, the girls eventually did find safety in marriage and lived happily ever after without bickering or marital strife.”
“Girls without their fathers were also at risk. I didn't learn this from the fairy tales of my youth, because in those stories the fathers were present in the castles and in the cottages. The fairy-tale fathers, however, were unforgivably weak and always thinking with their groins. These men would rather sacrifice their daughters than risk harm to themselves. Rapunzel's father loved her mother so much that he stole for the woman. When he was caught, he was a coward, and instead of paying with his own life he promised away their unborn child. Gretel was very much alive, as was her brother, Hansel, when their father tried to do away with them. Three times he tried. ("Abandonment in the forest" was a bloodless euphemism for attempted murder.) Of course, there was Beauty. Was she not the poster child for daughters of men who dodged their responsibilities and used their female offspring as human shields?
Fairy-tale fathers were also criminally negligent. Where was Cinderella's father when she was being verbally abused and physically demeaned by her stepmother and stepsisters? Perhaps he was so besotted, his wits so dulled by his nightly copulation with his new wife, that he failed to notice the degraded condition of his daughter. Snow White's father, a king no less, was equally negligent and plainly without any power within his own domestic realm. Under his very roof, his new wife plotted the murder of his child, coerced one of his own huntsmen to carry out the deed, then ate what she thought was the girl's heart. This king was no king. He was a fool who left his daughter woefully unprotected.
When I first heard these stories, I assigned to these men no blame because they worry the solemn and adored mantle of "father." I understood them to be, like my own father, men who went to work every day, who returned home exhausted and taciturn, and who fell asleep in their easy chairs while reading the newspaper. I assumed that they, like my father, would have protected their daughters if only they had known of the dangers their girls faced during those dark hours after school and before dinner.”
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