Monique Truong’s second novel, set in the South, narrates the life of young Linda Hammerick as she comes to terms with family, boys, school, career and illness. But this is no ordinary coming-of-age story. Linda has a secret sense: Each word she hears triggers a corresponding taste in her mouth. These “incomings,” as she calls them, intensify her memories, even as the nature of her condition and true familial origins remain mysterious. As shocking and heartbreaking revelations unfold, this novel imparts the message that self-identity should hinge not upon social categories or physical appearance but rather upon one’s lived experiences, including those hidden. Truong interweaves Southern legends with Linda’s narrative, adding layers of meaning to an already-intricate plot. And Truong’s prose is lovely, conveying a voice that is honest, whip-smart and funny. This must-read book surely belongs among the year’s best literature.
Book Review: Bitter in the Mouth by Monique Truong
Abigail Licad is one big FOB and damn proud of it. She grew up in the Philippines and immigrated to San Leandro, CA at age 13. She has a BA from University of California, Berkeley and a master's degree in literature from Oxford University. Her poetry and book reviews have appeared in Calyx, Borderlands, The Critical Flame, and the San Francisco Chronicle, among others. She is Hyphen's Books Editor.