"Powerful and deeply empathetic. A heartbreaking tale of lost ideals, human devotion, and hard-won redemption. Dust Child establishes Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai as one of our finest observers of the devastating consequences of war, and proves, once more, her ability to captivate readers and lure them into Viet Nam’s rich and poignant history."―Viet Thanh Nguyen, Pulitzer Prize-winning author ofThe SympathizerandThe Committed
From the bestselling author ofThe Mountains Sing, a richly poetic and suspenseful saga about two Vietnamese sisters, an American veteran, and an Amerasian man whose lives intersect in surprising ways, set during and after the war in Việt Nam.
In 1969, sisters Trang and Quỳnh, desperate to help their parents pay off debts, leave their rural village to work at a bar in Sài Gòn. Once in the big city, the young girls are thrown headfirst into a world they were not expecting. They learn how to speak English, how to dress seductively, and how to drink and flirt (and more) with American GIs in return for money. As the war moves closer to the city, the once-innocent Trang gets swept up in an irresistible romance with a handsome and kind American helicopter pilot she meets at the bar.
Decades later, an American veteran, Dan, returns to Việt Nam with his wife, Linda, in search of a way to heal from his PTSD; instead, secrets he thought he had buried surface and threaten his marriage. At the same time, Phong—the adult son of a Black American soldier and a Vietnamese woman—embarks on a mission to find both his parents and a way out of Việt Nam. Abandoned in front of an orphanage, Phong grew up being called “the dust of life,” “Black American imperialist,” and “child of the enemy,” and he dreams of a better life in the United States for himself, his wife Bình, and his children.
Past and present converge as these characters come together to confront decisions made during a time of war—decisions that reverberate throughout one another’s lives and ultimately allow them to find common ground across race, generation, culture, and language. Immersive, moving, and lyrical, Dust Child tells an unforgettable story of how those who inherited tragedy can redefine their destinies with hard-won wisdom, compassion, courage, and joy.