This 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. It tells of Vietnam, of the lasting impact of war, and of his family's struggle to forge a new future. And it serves as a doorway into parts of Little Dog's life his mother has never known - episodes of bewilderment, fear and passion - all the while moving closer to an unforgettable revelation.
I hated this book. It is beautifully written. Every sentence drips with poetry. The rhythm of the chapters is sublime - taking the reader on a perfectly crafted emotional journey. The characters are perfectly realised and speak with such force and power that it can be overwhelming.
It is everything a modern novel should be.
And yet I hated it.
It falls squarely in the category of "misery memoir". You know those books with a filthy urchin on the cover and a title like "Mummy, no! One child's brave experience of survival." Only this is literature.
I just don't get why someone would choose to vicariously experience such trauma. It feels grimly voyeuristic and graphically exposing. I felt grubby from peering in to someone else's tragedy - no matter how astonishing the prose is.
There is no doubt that this is a masterpiece. I think I'm just the wrong audience for it.