Van and Linny Luong are temperamental opposites. Diligent,
unassuming Van has found her calling as an immigration lawyer in the Midwestern
suburbs, but no one knows that her picture-perfect marriage has suddenly
evaporated. Her younger sister, Linny, fashion-forward and socially adept,
lives in Chicago where she has drifted into a dead-end affair with a married
man. Though both women feel untethered and burdened by a secret, they’ve never
been able to confide in each other.
But then, after nearly thirty years in the US, their eccentric,
invention-obsessed father decides to take the citizenship oath—a rite of
passage he hopes will improve the prospects of his most prized creation, the
“Luong Arm,” an instrument to help short people grasp objects that are out of
reach. When Van and Linny reluctantly heed the summons home they end up having
to plan a celebration for him, replete with cha gio egg rolls and encounters with
old friends from years past.
In the time warp of a childhood home unaltered since their
mother’s death and insulated by the same Vietnamese American community they
grew up with, Van and Linny find they are bound by much more than the duties of
culture and family history, or their aging father’s demands and whims. As they
chart the uncertainty that has defined them, as well as the bitter irony of
their romantic straits, Van and Linny discover in their common cause a new,
enduring connection that sees them through the host of surprises to come.
Bich Minh Nguyen was hailed by the Chicago Tribune as “a writer to watch, a tremendous talent” for her
debut memoir, Stealing Buddha’s Dinner,
and her charm and shrewd powers of observation are on brilliant display here in
her first novel. By turns deeply moving, wickedly urbane, and utterly
entertaining, Short Girls chronicles
the pitfalls and triumphs that govern all family lives. Nguyen’s insights into
the complexities of duty, culture, and ambition often shared by the children of
immigrants make Van and Linny’s story fresh and unforgettable—a true American
tale for our time.
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