For a first novel, this is remarkable. It is well-written. Nguyen’s writing is dense. He does not miss any opportunity to take a jab at someone or something – no opportunity for cleverness is ignored. If he overwrites at times – and he does, many times – it’s forgivable. Writers are told not to leave anything behind for their next novel.
There’s just one problem. And it’s a big one. There’s nothing new here. No insights, no observations, no questions, nothing that I haven’t encountered elsewhere. Okay, there are two exceptions – both dealing with the motif of duality that dominates the book. The first adds the question of time to the question of place when it comes to those with one foot in two cultures. The second is Nguyen’s writing choice at the end of the novel to make it clear how this exploration of duality turns out.
A promising writer? Yes. A good book? Meh. Worthy of a Pulitzer? Nope.