Thanhhà Lại gained many readers with her award-winning novel-in-verse, Inside Out and Back Again. Her newest novel, Butterfly Yellow, aims at an older audience of middle grade and teen readers, but, like her first novel, reaches inward to grab the reader’s heart.
The day after Hằng arrives in Texas from a refugee camp, she goes in search of her younger brother who was mistakenly taken from her arms to a plane during the fall of Saigon six years earlier. She has carried the heavy guilt of his separation ever since. When she finally finds him, her brother wants nothing to do with her, insisting he does not remember Vietnam. Hằng takes a job on a nearby ranch, determined to find a way into her brother’s memories and life. LeeRoy, an aspiring cowboy, becomes entangled in Hằng’s search for redemption and in the gradual revelation of her deep and painful secret. Hằng and LeeRoy serve as narrators of alternating chapters so readers experience their love/hate relationship amidst Hằng stubbornness and LeeRoy’s unrealistic dreams. Lai’s beautiful storytelling, full of warmth and powerful imagery, shine in this novel as does her ability to balance humor and trauma. Hằng’s English dialogue, written in Vietnamese syllables, and interpreted by LeeRoy, reflects her strategies as a language learner. Lai says that this book grew out listening to stories from Vietnamese refugees as a reporter and deciding to write a book about healing rather than horror. This is a book that lingers long in the reader’s memory to offer a deeply touching view of the continuing consequences of war. -Recommended by Kathy G. Short, University of Arizona
Author: Thanhhà Lại
PubDate: September 3, 2019
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