Genres: Literary Fiction
On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous is Ocean Vuong’s beautiful collection of thoughts, memories and impressions written to his mother. He explores his childhood, the story of his mother and grandmother and what they sacrificed and lost to the Vietnam war and then moving to the United States in search of a better life.
I did not know what to expect of this book when I picked it up, although I heard amazing things about it, I did not even know anything about its story at all. And it blew me away.
I expected beautiful writing, as the title and genre of the book make quite clear, but I did not expect it to be quite this beautiful. Although my life did not resemble Little Dog’s at all, my heart ached with his pain, filled with his passion, and with the extraordinary story of Lan and Rose. To me, the book shone when it came to telling the story of Little Dog’s mother and grandmother, the complexity, ugliness and resilience of them. But it’s not a book that uses violence gratuitously, which I appreciate – it was part of their story, but not made any more or less than it had to be. The violence and war was a big part of those women, but it wasn’t all there was to them.
The way Ocean Vuong writes resonated a lot with me, and I felt in my bones some of the things he said. “What is a country but a life sentence?” There is some wordplay as well that I found quite clever, and the imagery of his text is so vivid.
There were maybe a couple scenes where I frowned at the unnecessary divagating of the author, and I was less excited for the parts about his boyfriend, the All-American Trevor who hopes he isn’t going to be gay “forever”, but they were still relevant and beautifully told. I’m in awe as to how Ocean Vuong managed to have so many themes spoken about beautifully but without flare, and with enough depth to break your heart – all in a book under 250 pages. This book definitely felt briefly gorgeous.
I look so much forward to re-reading this.