The Mountains Sing

Written by Que Mai Phan Nguyen
Review by Nicky Moxey

This was a difficult book to read with the world as we know it being torn apart by the Corona virus, but it ends with a message of hope. It reads like an autobiography – and when I went back to the dedication, it was clear there’s a lot of lived experience there. The story revolves around one strong lady and her family, starting in 1920. Forced to flee the family farm with nothing except her children when the Communist government strips “evil landowners” of everything, Tran Dieu Lan is forced to leave the children in safe refuges one by one until she is able to build a new life in the city and return to rescue them. Half a century later, Vietnam is at war, this time the North against the South; Dieu Lan is forced to watch as her children are again ripped away by conflict, and she must provide for her young granddaughter in any way she can. Eventually, the family can unite around the love the granddaughter finds for a young man who turns out to be from their ancestral village, and generations-old wounds can start to heal.

The author was born in Vietnam in 1973. The dedication reads: “For my grandmother, who perished in the Great Hunger; for my grandfather, who died because of the Land Reform; for my uncle, whose youth the Viet Nam War consumed.” We’ve had it easy in the West. Perhaps we can learn how to face up to adversity, and live in hope, by reading about women such as these.