December 19, 2013

The Beauty of Humanity Movement by Camilla Gibb

Modern Vietnam.  There are plenty of books about the war, but you don't often see as many about what's going on in the country in this time.  Not that this book is a non-fiction by any means.  This is definitely fiction, but it still has a unique setting.

Hung is the local pho seller who makes the best pho.  He has a loyal customer base even though he only has a cart that he pulls along to different areas and not a store.  His store was shut down back when most people were being corralled for re-education.  His connection to some of the patrons that were taken was deep, especially to a poet called Dao.  Now, in the present time, Dao's son and grandson are some of the people who look after Hung and there's a new woman from America who is the daughter of yet another of Dao's friends.  They all want answers in regards to the past, but sometimes those are painful memories to bring up.

Hung is just a good person.  He wants to feed people and make them happy and despite the hardship in his life he still does the best for his community.  It's rather heart-warming actually.  Even Tu, Dao's grandson is a generally good guy.  He's a little naive and is embarrassed easily like most young men, but he goes out of his way for Hung and for his family.  Maggie I wasn't as fond of but I think it's just because she was presented as more sophisticated than everyone else in the book.  She was nice, but I don't think she was any more worldly than the other characters.

This story meanders along between the present and the past.  Flashbacks provide us with Hung's life and why he ended up the way he did.  But there are also teasers that only show half the story and which keep you moving until everything is resolved at the end.  There is no action or adventure, not really, but that's ok because this is a book about people.  I enjoyed reading about Hung and especially liked the descriptions of the pho.  Gibb is very good at describing food.  There is also that element of history and the re-education that happened in Vietnam that was informative.  I wasn't aware of that part of Vietnam's history and was glad the book included the information.

It may not be for people who like faster paced books but if you're looking for a story that combines a little bit of history and centers on people, this is a good one to read!

The Beauty of Humanity Movement
Copyright 2011
308 pages

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