Book Reviews

My five senses were on alert every moment while reading The Frangipani Hotel by Violet Kupersmith. This is a collection of short stories. Mainly the stories take place in Vietnam or Houston, Texas. Each story is widely different from the other one. Some of the stories seemed heavy with symbolism. For example, a few stories are about the splitting of one self. A person is experiencing an event outside of himself but with himself at the same time. There are stories I would call fantasies. For example, the man whose body becomes a python every few days. There is also the difficulty of removing oneself from one culture to live in another culture. There is the mother who washes dishes in the bathroom trying to maintain some semblance of her past life in Vietnam. There is the young woman who lives in Vietnam with her boyfriend. He feels at home in Vietnam while she can't disconnect herself from America. While in Saigon or another city in Vietnam, she has literally bitten her fingernails down to the quick. Vietnam is so different that she feels herself to tall for this city made up of small people. She seems too tall  for her office. Her size tells her to go home to America.

I also got a taste of Postwar Vietnam. It seems like a cake not finished baking. The people are trying to come completely awake from an extraordinary crisis, but it will take time. The cities are rampant with motorbikes. Businessmen are about wanting to make big bucks before more businessmen arrive from America. There is the intelligence, the wisdom of the Vietnamese who know the cities like the back of their hand. It is their choice whether to become a true friend or take advantage of the innocent businessman. There are always men who must engage a woman to spare them the lonely times in a hotel. However, they are at the mercy of the Vietnam women.

Then, there are the children and their mothers. Children who were fathered by American men. A set of twins are dark with blue eyes. Violet Kupersmith shows the mothers striving to adjust with children who will be looked upon as misfits. Some of the characters and places will remain in my mind. I will always remember the sick little boy with the shoes made of newspaper. I think the stories are wonderful. I am glad to have gotten the chance to see a new but struggling Vietnam through the eyes of Violet Kupersmith. People visiting are shown the temples, but the true stories are behind the temples in the backstreets.

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