“But wildness is how I had always known her. Ever since I could remember, she flickered before me, dipping in and out of sense.”
Genre: Literary Fiction
Published: 4th June, 2019
Rate: 4 ⭐⭐⭐⭐
On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous is a letter from a son to a mother who cannot read. Written when the speaker, Little Dog, is in his late twenties, the letter unearths a family’s history that began before he was born — a history whose epicenter is rooted in Vietnam — and serves as a doorway into parts of his life his mother has never known, all of it leading to an unforgettable revelation. At once a witness to the fraught yet undeniable love between a single mother and her son, it is also a brutally honest exploration of race, class, and masculinity. Asking questions central to our American moment, immersed as we are in addiction, violence, and trauma, but undergirded by compassion and tenderness, On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous is as much about the power of telling one’s own story as it is about the obliterating silence of not being heard.
With stunning urgency and grace, Ocean Vuong writes of people caught between disparate worlds, and asks how we heal and rescue one another without forsaking who we are. The question of how to survive, and how to make of it a kind of joy, powers the most important debut novel of many years.
“Sometimes you are erased before you are given the choice of stating who you are.”
I knew from the first opening line that I will love On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous. This is Ocean Vuong’s debut novel and he nailed it. On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous is a letter to Little Dog’s mum who can’t read, and because of that it’s so open and honest. The book is achingly beautiful! From the cover to the beautiful sentences. I was hooked from the first page. The writing is lyrical and it feels like prose poem. The way Ocean Vuong uses language in this book and its beautiful to read.
One thing to note, On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous is more like unpacking trauma. Ocean Vuong writes about life as a child and growing up in the diaspora with race, sexuality and identity being key factors. I did love how he explores love and loss in the same breath drugs and mental illness. At some point some parts were difficult to read as they are quite vivid and descriptive and I just needed to pause.
What I didn’t like is the ending. Those last few pages felt rushed and lacked direction and it was annoying.
All in all, I really loved On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous and I’d readily read anything Ocean Vuong writes.
Have you read On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous? What did you think about it?