📖: Eric Nguyen’s Things We Lost to the Water (2021)
🍸: the bayou
Why this book?
This novel begins with Hương, a Vietnamese refugee who resettles alone in New Orleans with her two sons, after leaving Vietnam by boat. Before her escape, she and her husband Công had been running towards the ocean, hand-in-hand, to reach the vessel that would take them away, but she somehow loses hold of him and Công gets left behind. What happened to him?
The shadows of memories, questions, and secrets haunt Hương and her sons as the years pass without contact from Công. Hương protects Tuấn and Bình by telling them their father is gone, but each son, in his own way, keeps tracing a path back to finding Công and the home they lost.
One memorable moment in the book is when Hương encounters a young half-Vietnamese man in her nail salon near closing hours. He says he’s looking for his American father, who he thinks may still be somewhere in New Orleans – has Hương seen him?
Huong feels sorry for this man, thinking that “what is lost is perhaps best forgotten. The past is the past.” But is it truly? As a member of the diaspora, sometimes the past feels so much like the present and the future. So much so that looking backwards is the only way to move forward.
This book was deeply poignant in its exploration of how children can carry on the burden of loss and trauma of the generation that came before. And how this experience of post-memory can drive them to keep turning back to a past that their elders may want to forget. Cyclical in nature, this story ends where it begins – with water, displacement from home, and the loss of a father – and I was captivated the whole way through. This novel is a beautiful debut, and I look forward to reading whatever Eric Nguyen writes next!
Thank you to Knopf for sending me an ARC of this book!
Why this drink?
Eric Nguyen – this cocktail pairing was created for you as a gift from Michael Nguyen to celebrate the publication of your novel. It’s inspired by Pat O’Brien’s Hurricane cocktail from New Orleans. Congratulations and cheers to you on this very special #PubDay! 🥂
2 oz black spiced rum
1.5 oz lite rum
1.5 oz passion fruit juice
1 oz blood orange juice
0.5 oz lime juice
0.5 oz ginger syrup*
Thai basil, blood orange slice, fresh longan fruit (if available)
- Combine all ingredients in a shaker with ice, and shake well.
- Strain into a glass packed with freshly crushed ice.
- Garnish with a leafy sprig of Thai basil, a blood orange wheel, and 1-2 peeled longan fruit, if available.
*How to make ginger syrup:
Heat 1 cup thinly sliced fresh ginger, 3/4 cup sugar, and 3/4 cup water on stovetop until boiling. Simmer on low heat for 15 minutes. Turn off heat and let the ginger seep until the syrup cools. Strain out the ginger. Store syrup in an airtight jar, and store in the fridge.
Another round, please! 🥂
You might also like:
Ocean Vuong’s On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous (2019)
Finished the book? What did you think about it? Share your thoughts in the comments section below!