Book Review: “On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous” by Ocean Vuong

on earth we're briefly gorgeousPoet Ocean Vuong’s semi-autobiographical debut novel has been one of the most anticipated releases of the Summer, having been written up in glowing terms in nearly every major publication in advance of its release. I was glad to discover that it was worth the hype. The novel is written in the form of a letter from a gay, Vietnamese-American man to his illiterate mother, in which he discusses his life growing up with her and his grandmother, what he knows of those women’s experiences in their home country during the Vietnam War, and his experiences with his first love, whom he met working on a tobacco farm. There is tragedy and hardship throughout this book, but there is also joy and beauty. Told in a stream-of-consciousness style that is broken into vignettes of various sizes, the language here is absolutely beautiful, perfectly capturing feelings that alternate between being situationally specific and universally relatable. Vuong doesn’t back away from sensitive subject matter here, and captures grief flawlessly in the particularly poetic third section, but the human tenderness that flows throughout, and his expression of our need for it, is what really makes the book shine, and ensures that it is one that readers will be unlikely to put out of their minds any time soon. We may be only briefly gorgeous, but this book will live on as such for a long, long time. ★★★★★ – Sean Farrell

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★★★★★ = Excellent | ★★★★ = Very Good | ★★★ = Good | ★★ = Fair | ★ = Poor

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