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.