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The book of salt
Monique T. D. Truong
Adult Fiction TRUONG

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From Publishers' Weekly:

A mesmerizing narrative voice, an insider's view of a fabled literary household and the slow revelation of heartbreaking secrets contribute to the visceral impact of this first novel. From a few lines in The Alice B. Toklas Cook Book, Truong reimagines the Vietnamese cook who was hired by the famous residents at 27 rue de Fleurus. Bonh, as he calls himself, is an exile from his homeland, where he was denounced because of a homosexual relationship and banished by his brutal father. After three years at sea, Bonh ends up in Paris, where he answers Toklas's ad ("Two American ladies wish...") and enters the household of Gertrude Stein. The story begins in 1934 when the women he calls "my Mesdames" are about to tour America, and Bnh fears he'll be cast adrift once again. Flashbacks reveal his loneliness and guilt, his doomed love affairs (he enjoys a brief tryst with Ho Chi Minh, whom he knows only as "the man on the bridge") and his sadness at having abandoned his mother and his native land. The tone throughout is poignant, lightened by Bnh's subversive wit; for all his bitterness and resentment, he is a captivating narrator, as adept at describing Stein's literary salon as the contents of Toklas's kitchen. If Truong sometimes stretches the range of Bonh's understanding and powers of observation, interpreting even the thoughts of Stein herself, the narrative rings with emotional authenticity. Truong's supple prose is permeated with sensual detail, reminiscent of A Debt to Pleasure in its evocation of the erotic possibilities of food. But it is her intuitive understanding of the condition of exile-"the pure, sea salt sadness of the outcast"-that infuses her novel with richness and beauty. Author tour; rights sold in U.K. and France. (Apr. 7) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

From Library Journal:

Set in Paris during the late 1920s and early 1930s, this uniquely told tale by debut novelist Truong features Binh, the fictionalized Vietnamese cook to literary figures Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas, who narrates the tale of his life working for "my Mesdames." Early in the novel, readers are whisked inside 27 rue de Fleurus, the real-life residence of the two women, as Binh judiciously describes the daily nuances of his life as well as his own equally intriguing biography. Truong's novel portrays varying dimensions of love as readers observe the relationships between Stein and Toklas, Binh and his lover Sweet Sunday Man, and the Old Man and Binh's mother. From a culinary perspective, this work is a sensual treat similar to Laura Esquivel's Like Water for Chocolate and Joanne Harris's Chocolat. And like novelist Gail Tsukiyama, Truong is able to create Asian characters and blend them with historical elements to create a work that will appeal to a broad audience. Highly recommended for public and academic libraries with large fiction collections and those serving Vietnamese American populations.-Shirley N. Quan, Orange Cty. P.L., Santa Ana, CA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

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main characters Binh
Gertrude and Alice's personal cook.

Gertrude Stein
Age: 60

Alice B. Toklas
Age: 57

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