Blurb (from Goodreads)
On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous is a letter from a son to a mother who cannot read. Written when the speaker, Little Dog, is in his late twenties, the letter unearths a family’s history that began before he was born – a history whose epicentre is rooted in Vietnam – and serves as a doorway into parts of his life his mother has never known, all of it leading to an unforgettable revelation. At once a witness to the fraught yet undeniable love between a single mother and her son, it is also a brutally honest exploration of race, class, and masculinity. Asking questions central to the American moment, immersed as it is in addiction, violence, and trauma, but undergirded by compassion and tenderness, On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous is as much about the power of telling one’s own story as it is about the obliterating silence of not being heard.
With stunning urgency and grace, Ocean Vuong writes of people caught between disparate worlds, and asks how we heal and rescue one another without forsaking who we are. The question of how to survive, and how to make of it a kind of joy, powers the most important debut novel of many years.
I hate writing three star reviews. I find them the most difficult to write because it is nigh on impossible to pin down exactly what it is that did not connect me to the book I read. On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous was one of my most anticipated titles of the year and maybe I expected too much??? I think I feel underwhelmed and I don’t truly know why. For some reason I found myself unable to connect with it as I would like.
The prose is beyond beautiful. There were moments in this book that I was made breathless by its gorgeousness.
But then at times I found it too harsh for me. Too explicit for my personal tastes and I felt uneasy. The book started and finished strongly…but I just got lost in the middle. The narrative is chronologically disjointed; the book is akin to a series of vignettes rather than a novel… And this didn’t work for me and I feel bereft.
So many people have loved this but sadly I wasn’t one. But I still would urge any lover of beautiful and thoughtful prose to read this one. Because there might be something here that will speak to you more than it did to me.
An e-copy of this book was kindly provided to me by the publisher, Vintage, via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.