Mrs. Rossi’s Dream by Khanh Ha
Publisher: The Permanent Press (March 1, 2019)
Category: Historical Fiction, Vietnam, Literary Fiction, Multicultural
Tour dates: Mar-Apr, 2019
Available in Print and ebook, 312 pages
“I live in a coastal town in the deep south of the Mekong Delta. During the war this was IV Corps, which saw many savage fights. Although the battles might have long been forgotten, some places cannot forget.”
Thus begins the harrowing yet poignant story of a North Vietnamese communist defector who spends ten years in a far-flung reform prison after the war, and now, in 1987, a free man again, finds work as caretaker at a roadside inn in the U Minh region. One day new guests arrived at the inn: an elderly American woman and her daughter, an eighteen-year-old Vietnamese girl adopted at the age of five from an orphanage in the Mekong Delta before the war ended. Catherine Rossi has come to this region to find the remains of her son, a lieutenant who went missing-in-action during the war.
“Mrs. Rossi’s Dream” tells the stories of two men in time parallel: Giang, the 39-year-old war veteran; Nicola Rossi, a deceased lieutenant in the U.S. army, the voice of a spirit.
From the haunting ugliness of the Vietnam War, the stories of these two men shout, cry and whisper to us the voices of love and loneliness, barbarity and longing, lived and felt by a multitude of people from all walks of life: the tender adolescent vulnerability of a girl toward a man who, as a drifter and a war-hardened man, draws beautifully in his spare time; the test of love and faith endured by a mother whose dogged patience even baffles the local hired hand who thinks the poor old lady must have gone out of her mind; and whose determination drives her into the spooky forest, rain or shine, until one day she claims she has sensed an otherworldly presence in there with her. In the end she wishes to see, just once, a river the local Vietnamese call “The River of White Water Lilies,” the very river her son saw, now that all her hopes to find his remains die out.
Just then something happens. She finds out where he has lain buried for twenty years?and how he was killed.
Parts of the book were previously published in literary magazines and became finalists for the following awards:
2016 Mary McCarthy Prize in Short Fiction (Sarabande Books)
2016 Many Voices Project (New Rivers Press)
2016 Prairie Schooner Book Prize in Fiction (Prairie Schooner)
2015 William Faulkner – William Wisdom Creative Writing Award (Pirate’s Alley Faulkner Society)
A short story adapted from the book won the 2013 Robert Watson Literary Prize in Fiction (The Greensboro Review)
Guest Review by Nora S.
Memories are a funny thing. Sometimes they can take you back to a different time and place so effectively that they feel like time travel. Such is the case for the characters in Khanh Ha’s book, “Mrs. Rossi’s Dream.” It is a book about a group of characters who are tortured and influenced by the past in many ways.
Take for instance, the character of Giang Le. Despite not being the title character, he is the main character of the novel as the reader is most often given his perspective on things. Giang is a fairly peaceful and low-key Vietnamese man who works at a roadside inn. But through his recollections about his past, we find out that he was a prisoner of war during the conflict in his country and that he was imprisoned for ten years by his own government for defecting.
Giang is such a soft-spoken man in his everyday life that the flashbacks to his time as a youth and during the war serve almost as a window into his soul for the reader. Here is a man who has seen so much suffering and so many terrible things but you’d never know it from talking to him.
Alternatively, Mrs. Rossi is a character who tends to speak her mind and be forthright at all times. She tells Giang very quickly after meeting him about her quest to find her soldier son’s remains in the jungle and stays determined throughout most of the novel that she will succeed in her objective.
I thoroughly enjoyed the perspectives of both characters as well as the interspersed chapters where we got the perspective of Mrs. Rossi’s son, Nicola.
I found this book to be a worthwhile and fascinating read and would recommend it to anyone who enjoys a well written novel. I promise you’ll enjoy it. I don’t give out a 5 star review very often but this book deserves that plus so much more.
“I read Mrs. Rossi’s Dream with a sense of awe, that one novel could answer so many lingering questions we’ve had about the tragedy of the Vietnam war and the men and women who suffered so greatly on both sides.”-Dan Pope, author of Housebreaking, Simon and Schuster
“Evocative, mysterious, and lovely, this is a remarkable book, for the beauty of the writing, the compassion for all the characters on any side.”-Judith Shepard, co-publisher and editor-in-chief of The Permanent Press
Praise for Flesh and Demon Who Peddled Longing
“The Demon Who Peddled Longing is rich with the kind of sensory experience that translates into a reader’s complete immersion into another time and place, allowing them to fully inhabit a 19-year-old boy’s experience in Vietnam.
Khanh Ha’s Flesh, a visceral and harrowing read, serves as a brilliant companion for his new novel. The phrase ‘body of work’ is particularly appropriate to use in discussing these books, for they share a preoccupation with natural and organic detail.
In many ways the ordinary and innocuous details which fill Nam’s everyday life are as significant as the story’s more dramatic events and interactions.
A reader will be as likely to recall the scenes filled with moonshine rice liquor and blowfish in batter, as the episodes of intimacy and violence. The tastes (from snakehead fish to hot pepper sauce) and sounds (from the clanking of keys and a dog barking to the wind rustling and flute playing); what is smelled (from the dark damp earth to the ooze of infected tissue) and what is touched (from boils lanced on a loved one’s back to mushrooms cut and fried): all of these details add to the reader’s understanding of Nam’s experience.
Perhaps no sense is more integrally rooted in the story than the sights which are often both beautiful and harsh in the same instance. But whereas the tragic elements of experience seemed to engulf all other aspects of life in Flesh (likely deterring those readers who do not want to explore difficult subject matter in fiction), there is a solid foundation of beauty in this work. Vietnam is a beautiful country, one too rarely represented on the page.
As was the case with Flesh, The Demon Who Peddled Longing welcomes readers who seek – rather than have experience – of this time and place. The work’s themes emphasize the human experience, and this offers an excess of opportunities for the reader to connect with Nam and recognize common elements with his personal experience.
The Demon Who Peddled Longing straddles the individual and the human experience and explores the fragile connection between states of being. Writers like Khanh Ha take the reader into ordinary and glorious places.”-Buried In Print
“Ha’s prose is poetic as it paints the scene in which you can smell the opium, see and hear the brown of Tai’s village and the busy streets of Hanoi, and feel the delirium of smallpox or his pulse quicken as he begins to fall in love.
From the atmosphere to the myths and legends, Ha generates a novel that will capture readers from the beginning.
Flesh by Khanh Ha is a stunning debut novel that showcases the writer’s ability to become a young male narrator whose view of the world has been tainted by his life circumstances and tragedy, but who has the wherewithal to overcome and become a better man.”?Serena, Savvy Verse & Wit
About Khanh Ha
Award winning author, Khanh Ha is the author of Flesh (Black Heron Press) and The Demon Who Peddled Longing (Underground Voices). He is a seven-time Pushcart nominee, a Best Indie Lit New England nominee, twice a finalist of The William Faulkner-Wisdom Creative Writing Award, and the recipient of Sand Hills Prize for Best Fiction, and Greensboro Review’s Robert Watson Literary Prize in fiction. The Demon Who Peddled Longing was honored by Shelf Unbound as a Notable Indie Book. Ha graduated from Ohio University with a bachelor’s degree in journalism.
This giveaway is for the choice 3 print copies or ebook copies of the book , 1 copy per each of 3 winners. Print is available to Canada and the U.S. only but ebook is available worldwide. This giveaway ends on May 8, 2019 at midnight pacific time. Entries are accepted via Rafflecopter only.
Follow the Tour
Teddy Rose Book Reviews Plus Feb 28 Interview
Autumn Amazon Mar 1 Review
Kate Goodreads Mar 4 Review
Don Amazon Mar 5 Review
Cremona Mythical Books Mar 7 Guest Review
Carole Rae’s Random Rambling Mar 8 Review
Christine’s Book Corner Mar 11 Guest Review & Guest Post
Toots Book Reviews Mar 12 Guest Review & Excerpt
Dawn Bound 4 Escape Mar 13 Guest Review
Nancy Reading Avidly Mar 15 Review
Jas International Book Reviews Mar 18 Review & Interview
Marcie Buried In Print Apr 1 Review
Teddy Rose Book Reviews Plus Apr 18 Review & Excerpt
Beth Amazon Apr 30 Review
Nicole Willow’s Thoughts Book Obsessions May 7 Review & Excerpt
Serena Savvy Verse & Wit May 8 Review
Sometimes in books with two rotating points of view, I tend to have a favourite. But, in this case, I wanted to know more about both perspectives, in both time periods, and I found both Giang and Mrs. Rossi’s journeys of equal interest.
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