Hot Best Seller

Build Your House Around My Body

Availability: Ready to download

A century of Vietnam's history and folklore comes to life in this "brilliant, sweeping epic that swaps spirits and sheds time like snakeskin" (Paul Tremblay, author of A Head Full of Ghosts and Survivor Song). Two young women go missing decades apart. Both are fearless, both are lost. And both will have their revenge. 1986 The teenage daughter of a wealthy Vietnamese famil A century of Vietnam's history and folklore comes to life in this "brilliant, sweeping epic that swaps spirits and sheds time like snakeskin" (Paul Tremblay, author of A Head Full of Ghosts and Survivor Song). Two young women go missing decades apart. Both are fearless, both are lost. And both will have their revenge. 1986 The teenage daughter of a wealthy Vietnamese family loses her way in an abandoned rubber plantation while fleeing her angry father and is forever changed. 2011 A young, unhappy Vietnamese American woman disappears from her new home in Saigon without a trace. The fates of these two women are inescapably linked, bound together by past generations, by ghosts and ancestors, by the history of possessed bodies and possessed lands. Alongside them, we meet a young boy who is sent to a boarding school for the métis children of French expatriates, just before Vietnam declares its independence from colonial rule; two Frenchmen who are trying to start a business with the Vietnam War on the horizon; and the employees of the Saigon Spirit Eradication Co., who find themselves investigating strange occurrences in a farmhouse on the edge of a forest. Each new character and timeline brings us one step closer to understanding what binds them all. Part puzzle, part revenge tale, part ghost story, this book takes us from colonial mansions to ramshackle zoos, from sweaty nightclubs to the jostling seats of motorbikes, from ex-pat flats to sizzling back-alley street carts. Spanning more than fifty years of Vietnamese history and barreling toward an unforgettable conclusion, this is a time-traveling, heart-pounding, border-crossing fever dream of a novel that will haunt you long after the last page.


Compare

A century of Vietnam's history and folklore comes to life in this "brilliant, sweeping epic that swaps spirits and sheds time like snakeskin" (Paul Tremblay, author of A Head Full of Ghosts and Survivor Song). Two young women go missing decades apart. Both are fearless, both are lost. And both will have their revenge. 1986 The teenage daughter of a wealthy Vietnamese famil A century of Vietnam's history and folklore comes to life in this "brilliant, sweeping epic that swaps spirits and sheds time like snakeskin" (Paul Tremblay, author of A Head Full of Ghosts and Survivor Song). Two young women go missing decades apart. Both are fearless, both are lost. And both will have their revenge. 1986 The teenage daughter of a wealthy Vietnamese family loses her way in an abandoned rubber plantation while fleeing her angry father and is forever changed. 2011 A young, unhappy Vietnamese American woman disappears from her new home in Saigon without a trace. The fates of these two women are inescapably linked, bound together by past generations, by ghosts and ancestors, by the history of possessed bodies and possessed lands. Alongside them, we meet a young boy who is sent to a boarding school for the métis children of French expatriates, just before Vietnam declares its independence from colonial rule; two Frenchmen who are trying to start a business with the Vietnam War on the horizon; and the employees of the Saigon Spirit Eradication Co., who find themselves investigating strange occurrences in a farmhouse on the edge of a forest. Each new character and timeline brings us one step closer to understanding what binds them all. Part puzzle, part revenge tale, part ghost story, this book takes us from colonial mansions to ramshackle zoos, from sweaty nightclubs to the jostling seats of motorbikes, from ex-pat flats to sizzling back-alley street carts. Spanning more than fifty years of Vietnamese history and barreling toward an unforgettable conclusion, this is a time-traveling, heart-pounding, border-crossing fever dream of a novel that will haunt you long after the last page.

30 review for Build Your House Around My Body

  1. 4 out of 5

    luce

    | | blog | tumblr | ko-fi | | 2 ½ stars (rounded up because tis' a debut) As per usual I was swayed by a pretty cover. I mean, just look at it! Anyway, as much as I wanted to like Build Your House Around My Body, it left me feeling rather underwhelmed. The narrative seems very much intent—hellbent even—on nauseating its readers, at times adopting a playful tone to do so. Ultimately, the story's relentless efforts to be as abject as possible succeeded only in making me feel nothing for the char | | blog | tumblr | ko-fi | | 2 ½ stars (rounded up because tis' a debut) As per usual I was swayed by a pretty cover. I mean, just look at it! Anyway, as much as I wanted to like Build Your House Around My Body, it left me feeling rather underwhelmed. The narrative seems very much intent—hellbent even—on nauseating its readers, at times adopting a playful tone to do so. Ultimately, the story's relentless efforts to be as abject as possible succeeded only in making me feel nothing for the characters. The novel's first few chapters were intriguing in a Neil Gaiman kind of way but with each chapter this reminded me more and more of Mariana Enríquez (not my cup of tea). Build Your House Around My Body takes place in Vietnam, shifting between a cast of interconnected characters, and moving from the 1940s to the early 2010s. In 2011 a Vietnamese American woman named Winnie living in Saigon goes missing, less than a year after arriving in Vietnam. Over the course of the novel, we learn of what led her to Saigon and of her stint as an English teacher. A section of the narrative follows the Saigon Spirit Eradication Co. who are called to investigate some 'spooky' ongoings at a farm in North Vietnam, another introduces us to a Vietnamese French boy sent to a boarding school during colonial rule, and then there are chapters focusing on three childhood friends, Binh, a supposedly feisty young girl and two brothers, Tan and Long, who share the same kind of bland personality. The setting is vividly rendered, that's for sure. We feel the oppressive heat and humidity experienced by the characters and the author has a knack for bringing to life the environments in which her characters are (be it a cemetery, a forest, or a dingy bathroom). The various storylines however don't really flow that well together. The author wastes too much time poking fun at secondary characters that she loses sight of her novel's central figures. Take Winnie. She remains a half-formed character, and while some of her vagueness may be intentional she could have still been fleshed out more. But her chapters often detail the silly routines of her colleagues or try really hard to gross you out through unpleasant descriptions of bodily fluids. Each storyline seems punctuated by slime, sweat, and shit. Which...yeah. The supposed revenge storyline doesn't really come into play until the very end of the novel and by the end, it was glaringly obvious what had taken place in the past. The only section that made me feel somewhat amused was the one featuring the Fortune Teller's First Assistant, but she was at beat a minor character (more of a cameo appearance really). I had the distinct impression that this it the type of novel that is confusing for the sake of being confusing and I never much cared for these types of stories. Not only did the characters feel flat but I felt at a remove from them. The narrative spends so much time ridiculing them or comparing their facial features or appendages to foods/animals that I never saw them as 'real'. To be perfectly honest I don't think I entirely understood what this book was going for. As I said already the novel's raison d'être seems to be that of repulsing the readers. The issues the narrative attempts to touch upon—female agency? maybe? I don't really have a clue—are lost in a murky melange of disparate storylines that don't really come together that well nor do they succeed in bringing the characters or their struggles to life. While the setting was rendered in startlingly detail. the characters—their experiences and their relationships to one another—remain painfully vague.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Neil

    It’s difficult to know where to start when writing about this book. Perhaps I’ll start by saying I misread the NetGalley description and it isn’t what I expected (although how and why I did this is a mystery because it’s quite clear). It’s not what I would normally read (it’s full of snakes and ghosts and possessions and, well, lots of other stuff like that). However, it seems that this turns out to be a good thing because I thoroughly enjoyed reading it. I could also start by saying that I am on It’s difficult to know where to start when writing about this book. Perhaps I’ll start by saying I misread the NetGalley description and it isn’t what I expected (although how and why I did this is a mystery because it’s quite clear). It’s not what I would normally read (it’s full of snakes and ghosts and possessions and, well, lots of other stuff like that). However, it seems that this turns out to be a good thing because I thoroughly enjoyed reading it. I could also start by saying that I am on record several times as saying I prefer atmosphere to plot in a novel. And this novel is really all about plot. But that doesn’t seem to matter here. The chapters come at you in non-chronological order and I quickly realised I was going to have to take notes if I wanted to keep any kind of track of what was happening. But then, as the plot thickened, I came to realise that my notes would need to be effectively the same length as the book because there isn’t really a wasted word here. Finally (I think), I could start by saying that I’ve read a couple of books already this year that have reminded me of the years I spent watching the TV series “Lost”. And this becomes a third example. For one thing, it has a smoke monster! But what it also has is multiple layers of connections: the structure of the book, its jumping from one time to another, is very carefully put together to lead the reader through and keep giving moments where pennies drop and connections are made. In this sense, the book reminded me of reading Emily St John Mandel who is a master of jumping around in time gradually revealing a story. I think it’s probably this that makes the book such a lot of fun to read. And it’s the reason why this review won’t talk about plot at all. Well, one of the reasons: another reason might be that I got a bit confused (in a good way)! Winnie is American/Vietnamese. We meet her arriving in Saigon. Don’t worry, the rustling in the bushes will be explained later in the book. But this rustling is the first indication that this is going to be a book where things are explained many pages after (or before) they happen in the book. My notes from the book are full of comments about what an event might mean for who a person is and how they are connected to other people. Winnie is fleeing her life in America and seeking a new version of herself in Saigon. She takes a job as an English teacher but, as she can’t really speak Vietnamese and, also, isn’t really interested, it doesn’t go terribly well. As she starts to explore the city, we find ourselves plunging into a weird world of snake symbolism, magical realism and possession. It’s really not the kind of stuff I would normally read. But it really is a lot of fun! Alongside this story of the supernatural (cue the smoke monster, but I think I already mentioned that), we read about Vietnamese folklore and the influence/legacy of French colonisation. Somehow, this bizarre mixture works really well. A thoroughly enjoyable read. My thanks to the publisher for an ARC via NetGalley.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Maxwell

    [3.5 stars] Ngoan Nguyen, or 'Winnie' as she prefers to be called, is an Vietnamese-American twenty-something who has moved to Saigon to teach English as a second language. She's not a particularly inspired or inspiring teacher and seems to have a malaise regarding her future, and truthfully, her present as well. One day she disappears. This incident begins the myriad connections that make up this novel of interconnected storylines. We follow Winnie in the months leading up to her mysterious disa [3.5 stars] Ngoan Nguyen, or 'Winnie' as she prefers to be called, is an Vietnamese-American twenty-something who has moved to Saigon to teach English as a second language. She's not a particularly inspired or inspiring teacher and seems to have a malaise regarding her future, and truthfully, her present as well. One day she disappears. This incident begins the myriad connections that make up this novel of interconnected storylines. We follow Winnie in the months leading up to her mysterious disappearance. We are introduced to a figure known only (for a while) as the Fortune Teller and his assistants, only referred to as First and Second Assistant. The story jumps back in forth in time, across decades, wars, colonization, and tragic incidences. What weaves these narratives all together is Winnie's disappearance as well as another mystery which occurred twenty-five year prior. Through all of these narratives, Kupersmith seems to be coming to some thesis about the power of the body, not only the native body but particularly that of a woman's body. In many of the stories we see the way that white colonizers overtake the land (and bodies, to which land is often closely linked) and men in power abuse women's bodies. This stripping of autonomy from a large people group has deep impact that reverberates across generations and through the land, and Kupersmith explores this in very strange, supernatural ways. Honestly, I wasn't expecting this to be as much of a 'horror' book as it is, but I didn't mind! That content was quite unexpected but very compelling. If you are squeamish or fearful of snakes, monsters or just intense scenes, I think you can handle this but just be warned that it's in there. It's never gratuitous; it straddles literary and genre fiction surprisingly well. And it was a lot more plot-based than I was expecting which made this very readable and exciting. I do think because it was so plot-based and there were so many characters and storylines woven in and out of each chapter, it did get somewhat hard to keep track of who was who and what their motivations were at times. By the end, however, it all came together in an interesting way that satisfied me, even if some of the earlier details were lost on me in the reading process. I absolutely will read more of Kupersmith in the future. I think this is a solid debut novel that will appeal to many readers, especially those who enjoy something on the darker side and that plays out like a puzzle, keeping you guessing, doling out information and making connections slowly, but landing with a powerful message at the end. I'd love to talk to other readers about this and am excited to see what they think when it's released in July 2021. Thanks to the publisher for providing me with an eARC via NetGalley. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Mai Nguyễn

    An innovative, brilliant, haunting and compelling read.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Sacha

    4.5 stars This is one of the most innovative uses of folklore I've seen in a long time, and I loved it. Winnie, nee Ngoan, is one of the main characters of this novel, and when readers meet her, she has somewhat recently come to Saigon to either get a better sense of who she is or to lose herself fully. While this part isn't clear at the start of the novel, what is apparent is that she is battling some real demons (pun intended this time) and that she has many more hurdles to overcome before her 4.5 stars This is one of the most innovative uses of folklore I've seen in a long time, and I loved it. Winnie, nee Ngoan, is one of the main characters of this novel, and when readers meet her, she has somewhat recently come to Saigon to either get a better sense of who she is or to lose herself fully. While this part isn't clear at the start of the novel, what is apparent is that she is battling some real demons (pun intended this time) and that she has many more hurdles to overcome before her story can be fully determined. This structure - characters with a lot of damage, secrets, and questions about their identities, and a truly cool infiltration of folklore - grounds the entire work. The real payoff for me is how the various characters come together and what they signify ultimately about trauma, the construction of the self, and vengeance. Though all of the characters are messy at best, the women identifying folks are holding the moral high ground. Even when they make challenging decisions, they offer reasons for why these choices work within personally established codes. This aspect connects some untraditional characters to traditional heroic models in ways that are - again - utterly creative. There is so much nuance, detail, and existential questioning here. This is not a novel that should be picked up for mindless summer reading. However, if you are the kind of reader who is willing to put in a little work - keeping the characters, symbols, motives, and archetypal elements aligned - the payoff is outstanding and SAVAGE. I can't wait to read more from Kupersmith, and if you're the above described reader, this one gets a high rec! TW: sexual assault, sexual harassment, rape Added note: I know some folks are particularly sensitive to snakes. Snakes - literal and figurative - abound here. You can judge that part of the book by its cover (just in case). Special thanks to NetGalley and Random House for this fantastic arc, which I received in exchange for my honest review.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Alix

    As someone who is part Vietnamese I was excited to dig into Build Your House Around My Body and learn more about Vietnamese culture and mythology. This book is a puzzle with many different characters and plot lines. Eventually these disparate storylines converge into one solid picture. Spirits and memory play a large part in this story. I found all of the different characters and storylines to be interesting but Binh was by far my favorite character. She is a fiery character who is fearless and As someone who is part Vietnamese I was excited to dig into Build Your House Around My Body and learn more about Vietnamese culture and mythology. This book is a puzzle with many different characters and plot lines. Eventually these disparate storylines converge into one solid picture. Spirits and memory play a large part in this story. I found all of the different characters and storylines to be interesting but Binh was by far my favorite character. She is a fiery character who is fearless and out for revenge. The majority of men in this book are rather unlikable or pathetic apart from the Fortune Teller. This book can be sad and wistful at times but overall I was satisfied with how everything concluded. Minus a star because it is slow throughout. If you’re looking for something fast paced and thrilling, this is not it. Rather, this a slow burn puzzle of a mystery combining Vietnamese mythology and folklore. It’s a fascinating read and I look forward to reading Kupersmith’s future work.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Emma

    This won't be for everyone - it's fairly slow-moving, has a very intricate plot in a David Mitchell-esque way which I don't normally enjoy, but honestly, by the end I loved it. It's definitely unique, the Vietnamese folklore is fascinating, and it all really comes together towards the end. I did have a wobble half way through where I thought I wasn't enjoying it all that much and was close to giving up, but I'm so glad I didn't. Be warned though - it can be pretty gross at times. There are a lot This won't be for everyone - it's fairly slow-moving, has a very intricate plot in a David Mitchell-esque way which I don't normally enjoy, but honestly, by the end I loved it. It's definitely unique, the Vietnamese folklore is fascinating, and it all really comes together towards the end. I did have a wobble half way through where I thought I wasn't enjoying it all that much and was close to giving up, but I'm so glad I didn't. Be warned though - it can be pretty gross at times. There are a lot of body fluids in this book...

  8. 5 out of 5

    Mocha Girl

    Spirits, Snakes, and Secrets! The premise of the novel proffers a mystery surrounding the disappearance of two girls decades apart to entice the reader into thinking that maybe this is a classic ‘whodunit’ or something similar; however, it did not take long for my expectations to be exceeded in a surprisingly good way. Meet Ngoan aka “Winnie,” a young woman who is running (literally to the other side of the world) to disappear. She is the underachieving youngest child in a family of overachievers Spirits, Snakes, and Secrets! The premise of the novel proffers a mystery surrounding the disappearance of two girls decades apart to entice the reader into thinking that maybe this is a classic ‘whodunit’ or something similar; however, it did not take long for my expectations to be exceeded in a surprisingly good way. Meet Ngoan aka “Winnie,” a young woman who is running (literally to the other side of the world) to disappear. She is the underachieving youngest child in a family of overachievers who also struggles with her biracial identity -- not “American/White” enough for her Caucasian peers, not “Asian/Vietnamese” enough for her Asian peers, and crumbles under the weight of daily microaggressions and negative stereotypes. Via flashbacks scattered throughout the novel, we learn of her lifelong battles with assimilation, body image, romantic encounters/failures/fetishes, and sibling rivalry -- all of which contributes to her decision to relocate to Vietnam to work as an English as a Second Language teacher -- only she’s not proficient in Vietnamese! She is too young and naive to realize that “wherever you go, you take yourself;” thus it is no surprise when things continue to go downhill as soon as she arrives. Winnie’s adventures in Saigon lead to seemingly random encounters with individuals who we eventually discover have entangled histories going back decades. The influence and legacy of French colonization is blended into the political and socio-economic aspects of the novel that adds realism to this fantastical tale stock full of regional myths and folklore. Some of the characters are quite eccentric, but even the most conventional have wonderfully imagined (sometimes mystical and convoluted) backstories -- we meet ‘do-gooder’ ex-pats, nefarious gangsters, fortune tellers, and those possessed by otherworldly spirits. I was fully immersed into this world and reveled in the author’s handling of the time sequences as well as the intricate, intertwined relationships of the characters -- it alluded to a “six degrees of separation” vibe and garnered several satisfying “a-ha” moments whenever the proverbial “dots” connected. Recommended to those who appreciate Vietnamese folklore, a drizzle of historical fiction, a smattering of magical realism, a bit of haunting via dreams, and a sprinkle of astral projections. Thank you to NetGalley and Random House for allowing me access to this book. Best of luck to Violet Kupersmith with her literary career. This book review will be posted on NetGalley, NCBC’s blog, and Goodreads.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Ming

    This is a gripping, bizarre story.  It has spirits and fantasy elements.  The writing is beautiful and often has a wry wit (very wry and completely satisfying), one that is rogue and comes out sideways; sometimes I wondered if a joke had been made at all because it was so subtle and/or cleverly presented. I was awed by the intricate plotting.  Various elements mentioned casually figure later or are repeated, e.g., initials, a hat, etc.  The characters are interconnected, their paths crossing--som This is a gripping, bizarre story.  It has spirits and fantasy elements.  The writing is beautiful and often has a wry wit (very wry and completely satisfying), one that is rogue and comes out sideways; sometimes I wondered if a joke had been made at all because it was so subtle and/or cleverly presented. I was awed by the intricate plotting.  Various elements mentioned casually figure later or are repeated, e.g., initials, a hat, etc.  The characters are interconnected, their paths crossing--sometimes more than once.   Importantly, I found this read not only engaging but refreshing.  For example, ghosts and other "monsters" behave in unexpected ways, likely informed by Vietnamese culture and folklore.  I'm reminded of the author's The Frangipani Hotel, where, similarly, the "weird" are innovative and engrossing.    Few favorite quotes (but there were so many I admired and could have included): "Winne felt better in the sunlight. She let her hand rest on the tree's ropy trunk. The bark was smooth beneath her fingers. These were the breed of strangling ficus that spent two hundred years braiding their bodies around a host tree, killing it while gradually assuming it form. Parasite, doppelganger, sarcophagus. Winnie admired it.  What she wished, she reflected dreamily, her whole back now leaning against the tree, was for the same thing to happen to her. For the new self she'd hoped she would become in Saigon--a better self, a banyan self, resilient and impenetrable--to encase Old Winnie completely in its cage-like lattice of roots and then let her wither away inside. She wanted there to be no trace left of that thirteen-year-old girl that Dr. Sang had remembered." "Sometimes she did genuinely think that she would grow old alone, like the Fortune Teller....First Assistant now had to take her chances with men she met on the internet. More than half of her online messages were from Westerners, but First Assistant didn't respond to those, knowing that her English wasn't good enough to tell the foreigners with fetishes apart from the ones without them...." "....She tried to model as much of her life as possible after the girls she saw in the popular Korean soap operas she devoured--her pouts; her exaggerated cutesiness; her hair, dyed an orange-brown and cut into bangs that looked like they had been trimmed around an upside down pho bowl, her slightly wooden kisses..."

  10. 4 out of 5

    Rebecca Charters

    I absolutely loved this book. I thought the style and the way the story was presented to us made it such an interesting read. The timeline jumps around a lot and there's a lot of characters to remember but the way they're named and introduced to us allows us to see a character's younger self and their future before we realise that it's the same character. It's so cleverly done that then when the link is revealed it leaves you thinking "oh that's him! So that's why x, y, z". Even once all the con I absolutely loved this book. I thought the style and the way the story was presented to us made it such an interesting read. The timeline jumps around a lot and there's a lot of characters to remember but the way they're named and introduced to us allows us to see a character's younger self and their future before we realise that it's the same character. It's so cleverly done that then when the link is revealed it leaves you thinking "oh that's him! So that's why x, y, z". Even once all the connections have been made though, there are still a lot of characters because of the wide timeline the book takes place over so if you struggle with keeping track of characters or like to have long breaks between reading then maybe this book isn't for you. This book is also one where you reach the end and still have questions that are not fully answered. Usually this annoys me, I have to know exactly how everything relates and know why everything happened or it will just bug me forever. I know some author like to leave things unanswered so the readers can draw their own conclusions but normally that's not for me. But somehow this book managed to make it not annoying. I honestly have no idea how but I think just because I enjoyed the book so much the whole way through that when I reached the end and had questions still it wasn't annoying enough to ruin the book for me. I also think that because the book is so 'supernatural' and it was just one weird unexplainable thing after another that by the time I reached the end it just didn't seem that odd anymore. Overall, I think the book was incredibly cleverly written and no matter how weird the storyline got I just loved it. The way all those characters linked together into one huge story was just fantastic to me. I would definitely recommend giving this book a go and will be keeping an eye out for Violet's next book!

  11. 5 out of 5

    Carole Knoles

    Snake symbolism, the supernatural, and seemingly semi-mad people appear throughout this novel set in modern day Vietnam. If I have read in the past a book more masterly plotted than Build Your House Around My Body, I frankly can’t remember it. As the story winds it’s way back and forth through the years and the different characters, you have “Aha!” moments as you put the pieces together. I would like to thank Random House for allowing me this early read of a story set in a place that was once ve Snake symbolism, the supernatural, and seemingly semi-mad people appear throughout this novel set in modern day Vietnam. If I have read in the past a book more masterly plotted than Build Your House Around My Body, I frankly can’t remember it. As the story winds it’s way back and forth through the years and the different characters, you have “Aha!” moments as you put the pieces together. I would like to thank Random House for allowing me this early read of a story set in a place that was once very much in the daily consciousness and now relegated by most to the pages of history.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Clare

    I loved this enchanting, horrific, beautiful story. Build Your House Around My Body is a difficult book to describe. There are at least three timelines, all relevant to what is happening in the present day to the main character, Winnie née Ngoan. Winnie is a lost soul - she has gone to Vietnam to stay with family while she teaches English to Vietnamese students, hoping to find herself, but she seems to become more and more lost as the story progresses. She struggles with her dual identity as her I loved this enchanting, horrific, beautiful story. Build Your House Around My Body is a difficult book to describe. There are at least three timelines, all relevant to what is happening in the present day to the main character, Winnie née Ngoan. Winnie is a lost soul - she has gone to Vietnam to stay with family while she teaches English to Vietnamese students, hoping to find herself, but she seems to become more and more lost as the story progresses. She struggles with her dual identity as her mother is American, and her father is Vietnamese. The fact that she seems to deliberately sabotage her own life is the most tragic thing about her. The time does jump around a bit, but this didn’t confuse me at all - the chapter headings made sure of that - in fact they gave some interesting history lessons (e.g. French colonialism, Japanese occupation). It’s a weird and wonderful one (my favourite kind!), sometimes bordering on the grotesque (ditto). Bodily functions and food that I wasn’t sure about, galore! (I’d still try the food though, although I draw the line at dog…). The supernatural elements showed that these things are still very much a part of Vietnamese culture (spirits and demons both feature). Some parts are achingly sad, some made me feel a bit ill, and others were actually quite amusing. I couldn’t put this book down. The joy of it was that I didn’t know, couldn’t predict, what was going to happen next! I’m really interested to see what Kupersmith writes next if this is her debut - what an imagination! Many thanks to Jellybooks for giving me the chance to read this wonderful book.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Vince Caparas

    I'm going to reserve the right to change my mind about this book after my book club meeting but after finishing it today I am left feeling completely befuddled and disappointingly underwhelmed. So the story revolves around a Vietnamese-American girl named Winnie who moves to Vietnam in an attempt to escape past trauma. A few months in, she disappears without a trace. The novel builds its story around this disappearance as it jumps back and forth through time as it explores themes of female oppres I'm going to reserve the right to change my mind about this book after my book club meeting but after finishing it today I am left feeling completely befuddled and disappointingly underwhelmed. So the story revolves around a Vietnamese-American girl named Winnie who moves to Vietnam in an attempt to escape past trauma. A few months in, she disappears without a trace. The novel builds its story around this disappearance as it jumps back and forth through time as it explores themes of female oppression, violence against the female body, Vietnamese folklore, and colonialism. It's a staggering project and to be fair, Build Your House Around My Body is the most creative attempt to explore these themes I've ever encountered. The writing in particular is particularly ambitious with Kupersmith taking aspects of genre fiction like horror and magical realism to craft her narrative. Like some of the reviews on GoodReads have already suggested, the format of this book takes a page from Emily St. John Mandel and David Mitchell's earlier work with seemingly unrelated narratives coalescing to form a larger interwoven narrative. These pieces, especially early on, are stunning and absorbing stories that on their own really sparkle with beautiful narration and tension. The problem for me begins about halfway through the novel when the narrative thread that is supposed to spool all these things together doesn't seem to be apparent beyond a couple characters that act as a bridge between the disparate stories. As a reader, I find that with fiction in particular, it's really important to get into the rhythm of the writer. Even if you don't know where a story is going or how it will end, I think it's really important to understand, how the author is going to get you there. In this case, I felt constantly unmoored while reading and kept having the gnawing feeling that perhaps I had missed a crucial piece of information that would set everything clear. This is further exacerbated by the author's choice to present the book in a non-linear fashion with many disparate story lines. Again, on the surface, not necessarily a bad decision, but when your reader still isn't clear on how you're telling your story and is constantly questioning "who is that?" or "was that important?" it can lead to a pretty jarring and difficult reading experience. Some reviews have likened this novel to the television series Lost, which I think is a wonderfully apt comparison. While the subject matter is completely different, the structural storytelling is incredibly similar. I remember being a really big fan of Lost when it first came out and I devoured the series. Sometimes intentionally confusing, as a viewer, I trusted that the writers and producers of the series would get me to the end and the confusion of watching it would eventually dissipate to a satisfying ending. As the seasons wore on though, when each riddle turned out to be a mystery, wrapped in an enigma, it become exhausting. Characters that are built up to be important are suddenly abandoned and other than the main plot line, nothing else feels like it's reached it's natural narrative conclusion. I felt very much the same with this this novel. While the individual pieces were intriguing, as a complete work of fiction, I found it deeply disappointing and excruciatingly difficult to finish. On a positive note however, I am intrigued by Violet Kupersmith and what she decides to come out with next. As I said before, this is an incredibly ambitious and creative project and while it may not have been for me, I think there's enough here to celebrate a new diverse voice in contemporary literature. I'm very excited for my book club meeting to discuss this novel further!

  14. 4 out of 5

    Caylynn

    2.5/5 stars There were some parts that I absolutely loved and gave me psychological horror goosebumps the likes of which I have not felt since I watched The Haunting of Hill House, I will not deny that. However, that can't excuse the blandness of over 50% of the novel, nor does it make up for the utter overuse of time-jumps and timeline divergences. Coming from someone who typically thrives when reading/watching a story unravel through dual timelines (cough*Vicious and the aforementioned TV s 2.5/5 stars There were some parts that I absolutely loved and gave me psychological horror goosebumps the likes of which I have not felt since I watched The Haunting of Hill House, I will not deny that. However, that can't excuse the blandness of over 50% of the novel, nor does it make up for the utter overuse of time-jumps and timeline divergences. Coming from someone who typically thrives when reading/watching a story unravel through dual timelines (cough*Vicious and the aforementioned TV show*cough), my dislike of how many timelines and alternate POVs says a lot. I was struggling to maintain focus after the 60% mark or so, and by the time I finally finished the book, all I really felt was relief. I will admit that I was still anxious to see how the mystery concluded though! And I still purchased the book after renting it from my library because: 1) just look at the cover, man. That shit needs to be on my shelves ASAP 2) I am ashamed to admit that I don't have as many books set in Vietnam as I would LIKE. But I am working on it 3) the story itself was decent enough that I would like to give it a chance in a year or two. Maybe I'm just bogged down and too worn out by this summer semester and working full time to actually enjoy this book, so I am pleased I still want to give it the benefit of the doubt in the future. Honestly, give this a go if the synopsis sounds like a good time for you! Hopefully, unlike me, you'll enjoy it the first time you have a go at it.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Elena L.

    BUILD YOUR HOUSE AROUND MY BODY centers around the disappearance of Winnie, a biracial Vietnamese-American woman and Binh, the teenage daughter of a wealthy Vietnamese family. Covering multiple timelines and generations, this story is bizarre yet alluring with its ghostly events. Plagued by spirits and supernatural elements, we encounter from a creepy fortune teller, two-headed snake to smoke turned into human. The narrative is shaped by the juxtaposition of the stories, which I found multilayere BUILD YOUR HOUSE AROUND MY BODY centers around the disappearance of Winnie, a biracial Vietnamese-American woman and Binh, the teenage daughter of a wealthy Vietnamese family. Covering multiple timelines and generations, this story is bizarre yet alluring with its ghostly events. Plagued by spirits and supernatural elements, we encounter from a creepy fortune teller, two-headed snake to smoke turned into human. The narrative is shaped by the juxtaposition of the stories, which I found multilayered but at the same time, it felt confusing occasionally. Kupersmith handles well the uncanny exultations of the ordinary, effortlessly weaving themes of possession, revenge and women's empowerment. With Vietnamese history and folklore vibrating through the pages, I wasn't expecting to be so impressed by the grotesque moments. The different stories all come together in a hypnotic way, leaving the readers with their own interpretation. The map in the beginning of the book was quite informative and piqued up my interest. Even though I found the story complex and rich, the introduction of many characters at once left me disoriented and I thought that the middle part dragged a bit. You will want to take your time to enjoy the 400 pages. BUILD YOUR HOUSE AROUND YOUR BODY is a bold and haunting novel that will stay with me for a while. [ I received a complimentary copy from the publisher - Random House - in exchange for an honest review ]

  16. 5 out of 5

    Beverly

    Haunting, unsettling, & powerfully dazzling! Kupersmith’s deftly crafted and inherently crafted debut novel showcases her erudite skills as a compelling storyteller in this puzzling tale of two young woman mysteriously disappearing decades apart. In 2010, 22- year-old half White American half Vietnamese Winnie Nguyen arrives in Saigon under the guise to teach English but her true hope is to find a place where she fits in. The beginning chapters concentrate on Winnie’s adventures and the reader fee Haunting, unsettling, & powerfully dazzling! Kupersmith’s deftly crafted and inherently crafted debut novel showcases her erudite skills as a compelling storyteller in this puzzling tale of two young woman mysteriously disappearing decades apart. In 2010, 22- year-old half White American half Vietnamese Winnie Nguyen arrives in Saigon under the guise to teach English but her true hope is to find a place where she fits in. The beginning chapters concentrate on Winnie’s adventures and the reader feels the tensions and suspense as the makings of the mysterious unknowns are beginning to leave a bread crumb that begins to intrigue and tickle at our curiosity. Each chapter starts with a time before and after Winnie’s disappearance, and begins the introductions to the notable secondary characters and their accompanying vignettes full of anguish riddled action across a century of Vietnamese history and folklore. The novel propels the exhilarating plot to a nerve-racking end that expertly ties the characters and story threads together. Rich atmosphere, meticulous details, and the masterful use of poetic language makes for a mesmerizing and enjoyable read. I received a copy of this book from GoodReads and the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Alex Curtis

    Thank you to Netgalley for the chance to read this book.. I loved the cover, that's why I requested the book to be honest. Build Your House Around My Body takes place in Vietnam, shifting between a cast of interconnected characters, and moving from the 1940s to the early 2011. The setting is vividly rendered, that's for sure. We feel the oppressive heat and humidity experienced by the characters and the author has a knack for bringing to life the environments in which her characters are (be it a c Thank you to Netgalley for the chance to read this book.. I loved the cover, that's why I requested the book to be honest. Build Your House Around My Body takes place in Vietnam, shifting between a cast of interconnected characters, and moving from the 1940s to the early 2011. The setting is vividly rendered, that's for sure. We feel the oppressive heat and humidity experienced by the characters and the author has a knack for bringing to life the environments in which her characters are (be it a cemetery, a forest, or a dingy bathroom). The various storylines however don't really flow that well together. The author wastes too much time poking fun at secondary characters that she loses sight of her novel's central figures. Take Winnie. She remains a half-formed character, and while some of her vagueness may be intentional she could have still been fleshed out more. But her chapters often detail the silly routines of her colleagues or try really hard to gross you out through unpleasant descriptions of bodily fluids. Each storyline seems punctuated by slime, sweat, and shit. Which...yeah. The supposed revenge storyline doesn't really come into play until the very end of the novel and by the end, it was glaringly obvious what had taken place in the past. The only section that made me feel somewhat amused was the one featuring the Fortune Teller's First Assistant, but she was at beat a minor character (more of a cameo appearance really).

  18. 5 out of 5

    Morgan Thobe

    This was such a unique book with so many layers. Hearing the author talk about this book with the Belletrist book club was so interesting and really insightful! I feel like I need to go back and reread it just to track all the storylines. Overall, a really great book filled with ghost stories and mystery. It takes you into Vietnam and draws you into their culture. She creates so many connections between the characters and the history of the country itself, and through her female main characters This was such a unique book with so many layers. Hearing the author talk about this book with the Belletrist book club was so interesting and really insightful! I feel like I need to go back and reread it just to track all the storylines. Overall, a really great book filled with ghost stories and mystery. It takes you into Vietnam and draws you into their culture. She creates so many connections between the characters and the history of the country itself, and through her female main characters addresses what it’s like being a woman in Vietnam, which is something she discusses in her videos. Thought provoking and even more so after hearing the author talk about it!

  19. 5 out of 5

    Gianna

    This book is not what I'd call "beautiful." It is very ugly, depressing, and borderline horrifying in many parts. It is twisty and haunting, yet there is an unexpected tenderness by the very end. I am still collecting my thoughts, but I know I loved this story and spending time with it. I recommend the audio book, which helped me keep track of the 50 years worth of time traveling and plot lines. This book is not what I'd call "beautiful." It is very ugly, depressing, and borderline horrifying in many parts. It is twisty and haunting, yet there is an unexpected tenderness by the very end. I am still collecting my thoughts, but I know I loved this story and spending time with it. I recommend the audio book, which helped me keep track of the 50 years worth of time traveling and plot lines.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Joy

    My expectations of Build Your House Around My Body being about Vietnamese folklore, historical fiction, anticolonism were a little discordant with the actual book. Yes, it did contain that to some degree but it was more action packed and contained more horror and supernatural elements, and sleaze on the streets of modern Saigon. There's an emphasis on 'halfies' or biracials, such as protagonist Winnie who was born and raised in the United States with an Italian + Irish blend mother and a Vietname My expectations of Build Your House Around My Body being about Vietnamese folklore, historical fiction, anticolonism were a little discordant with the actual book. Yes, it did contain that to some degree but it was more action packed and contained more horror and supernatural elements, and sleaze on the streets of modern Saigon. There's an emphasis on 'halfies' or biracials, such as protagonist Winnie who was born and raised in the United States with an Italian + Irish blend mother and a Vietnamese father. Her father, who was a refugee in the US, met her mother when she volunteered at the refugee camp teaching English. Like many teaching English in Vietnam and other Asian countries, she is there to escape her own life. Other foreigner teachers at her Achievement! Academy are there to have their 'unique' life experience, sleep with local Vietnamese women, 'find themselves' and run a travel blog. On the surface, Winnie or Ngoan Nguyen seems like an anguished lost young woman because she doesn't fit in her family and doesn't have an identity to hang her hat on. Her much older brothers are golden penises who have fulfilled their parents' dream occupations - doctor, engineer, lawyer - and dutifully followed the sheeple lifescript, picket fence married breeder to 2.5 squalling kids. Winnie's aversion to this and her family's well-intentioned concern is quite clear. Through Winnie and two local Vietnamese brothers Tan and Long she gets involved with + creepy Dr Sang, we are plunged into the seedy squalid underbelly of Saigon, with KTV bars lounges, date rape, drugs, pills, sex in toilets, animal smuggling, human trafficking, tourist scams, corrupt police. Ms Kupersmith's descriptions of the humidity, crowding, gnarled clogged streets, motorbikes and motor taxis, street food vendors, stray dogs makes us feel like we're there in person. Woven through this contemporary time line in 2010 are a few others involving the rural Vietnamese highlands of Ia Kare, a site where two Frenchmen decided to start a rubber plantation in 1942 which later was burnt down and where childhood friends Binh and brothers Tan and Long grew up in the nineties, being juvenile cemetery extortionists in 1993. The illustrations of Ia Kare then and now and the maps are excellent. Also important is Jean-François Auffrett, another mixed 'Metis' with French mother and Vietnamese father, who gets left behind by the French missionaries in 1942 in Lang Biang Mountain of Dalat and gets possessed by sentient smoke/fire. He makes a reappearance in modern times as an exorcist and Fortune Teller. The horror/supernatural genre is not what I normally read and here there's plentiful ghosts, hauntings, possession by spirits of humans and animals, nebulous sentient smoke or fire causing mandible to stretch and hang, woman in wedding dress hawking up big ball of black hair, the sex conquest book of hairs, Binh who reappears as all hair - do not read at night! Certain themes recur - fire, smoke, hair, snakes, cobras in particular a two-headed one! The pieces do fit together snugly, I appreciate the author giving us space to pierce together links and clues like the leather briefcase with initials JAF, the sites at which cobras are released in modern Saigon and reappearance of Second Assistant (Hai) and JAF himself. The snakes and cobras are not the scary ones, in fact they treat the women tenderly and give them their means of revenge. Some of the snakes themselves become prisoners in a zoo vivarium. Men and their lust and violence is the common link between the three women Winnie, Binh and Miss Ma who have disappeared across different timelines. (view spoiler)[ Old Mr Ma rapes his underage daughter and gives away the unwanted baby. French Plantation owner Lerouge takes advantage and rapes his female plantation workers and local Vietnamese women, conquests include both animals that he displays in his home and women whose hair he keeps in a book. So gross. Poor Odile. Tan kills Binh after being rejected by her, doesn't take her to get medical treatment after being bitten by cobra. Winnie was raped at her brother's graduation from medical school in the US by a white guy resulting in her brokenness. (hide spoiler)] Sexual assault, violence inflicted on female bodies, exploitation of women, femicide is a problem throughout the world today and more attention is always good. I felt that it took awhile to focus on this point and although it's the climax, too many distractions of the superstitions and horror elements detracted. Too much flash and not enough authentic Vietnam. Even the snakes which are front and centre on the cover and the story, I still don't understand their connection to Vietnamese folklore. As well, Ms Kupersmith may well have done a disservice to Asians in talking about Vietnamese and Chinese eating cats, dogs, embryonic duck etc., giving Western bigots and ignorant racists another inlet when the majority of Asians do not consume anything remotely close to that in their entire lives. Thanks to Netgalley and Random House for providing an ARC of this book in exchange for an unbiased review.

  21. 5 out of 5

    emma

    DNF'ed @ 40%. I have to say, this one is a really unfortunate DNF for me! I enjoyed the writing and the mystery was starting to get interested, but something about this novel was difficult for me to fully get invested in. Perhaps it was the fact that I made it 40% into this book and still felt like I knew nothing about the main character. If you like slow-burn plots with hidden clues and a rich history, I would recommend this one! It just wasn't for me. Thank you to NetGalley and the publishers fo DNF'ed @ 40%. I have to say, this one is a really unfortunate DNF for me! I enjoyed the writing and the mystery was starting to get interested, but something about this novel was difficult for me to fully get invested in. Perhaps it was the fact that I made it 40% into this book and still felt like I knew nothing about the main character. If you like slow-burn plots with hidden clues and a rich history, I would recommend this one! It just wasn't for me. Thank you to NetGalley and the publishers for kindly providing an ARC in exchange for an honest review. #NetGalley #BuildYourHouseAroundMyBody. All opinions are my own.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Jessica

    How to describe this book? It was so bizarre and unsettling at times, but also full of intrigue and recurring motifs! Trying to summarize this book is like trying to pin down smoke. The elusive and mysterious storytelling definitely contributed to part of the atmosphere. Build Your House Around My Body is a tale about interconnected ghost stories set in Vietnam. The main focus is on a biracial Vietnamese American character named Winnie, who is half white and half Vietnamese. Her characterization How to describe this book? It was so bizarre and unsettling at times, but also full of intrigue and recurring motifs! Trying to summarize this book is like trying to pin down smoke. The elusive and mysterious storytelling definitely contributed to part of the atmosphere. Build Your House Around My Body is a tale about interconnected ghost stories set in Vietnam. The main focus is on a biracial Vietnamese American character named Winnie, who is half white and half Vietnamese. Her characterization/character arc is a bit ambivalent and not fully fleshed out sometimes, but I think this is done intentionally because she is navigating her struggles with purpose, identity, and feelings of estrangement as a biracial Asian American in Vietnam. This book is an excellent reckoning and deconstruction of Vietnam’s history through a Vietnamese lens, and the legacy and impact of French colonialism and American war and imperialism. This book traverses through time—as well as both rural Vietnam and in the cities. And it has a haunted forest! I thought the shifting timeline was so well done; it was a bit confusing at first that the events/stories weren’t in a chronological order, but then it all started coming together. And you see how the different narratives and characters are interwoven together throughout history, across generations. The whole time I was reading this novel, I was thinking that the way Kupersmith constructed this book felt like a house being built—with meticulous planning, attention to detail, and strong groundwork. This book was so layered and had a lot of symbolism. It is an exploration of the strange and grotesque—with elements of horror, folklore, and the supernatural. I loved all the imagery about the different settings, and there were also a lot of Vietnamese foods that were included and described! Binh was my favorite character and I enjoyed her story the most. This was a very thought-provoking read about racial and cultural identity, decolonization, and being anti-colonialist. It’s a testament to Vietnamese heritage and the effects of war and trauma on the body. I also deeply enjoyed the feminist themes about women reclaiming their power. TW for this book: violence, death, racism, sexual violence, snakes

  23. 5 out of 5

    alex alderson

    ★★★★ **AD — gifted He could feel the forest thinking. It was a twenty-hectare botanical mind, alive and warped, dangerous things nestled deep in its roots… This book is one of a kind. Build Your House Around My Body is one of the most surreal books I have had the pleasure of reading. The unsettling, eerie, creepy tone, splashed with gloriously descriptive and atmospheric writing — made for a truly captivating page turner. Plot: Part-puzzle, part-ghost story, part-revenge tale — Two women go missing, ★★★★ **AD — gifted He could feel the forest thinking. It was a twenty-hectare botanical mind, alive and warped, dangerous things nestled deep in its roots… This book is one of a kind. Build Your House Around My Body is one of the most surreal books I have had the pleasure of reading. The unsettling, eerie, creepy tone, splashed with gloriously descriptive and atmospheric writing — made for a truly captivating page turner. Plot: Part-puzzle, part-ghost story, part-revenge tale — Two women go missing, decades apart. The fates of these two women are inescapably linked. Weaving back and forth through time, the story unfolds as you learn more about the character’s history and complex, connected narratives. Travel through the sweaty nightclubs of Saigon and sizzling back-alley street carts, to the rural forests and rubber plantations which hold supernatural secrets. Two headed snakes. Copious amounts of rice wine. Colonial mansions. Haunted forests. Supernatural forces at work.. this book sells itself as its absolutely packed with intrigue and mystery, which put me in a hazy, fever dream-like trance reading this hypnotic novel. Build Your House Around My Body is speckled with important issues such as the exploitation of Vietnamese women by men, even those they deem close to them, as well as domestic violence and drug use. This isn’t for the faint hearted!! It’s truly a ‘clutching my pearls !’ kind of book. I am still trying to work out the ending slightly, but that’s not a bad thing, and i’m more than happy to continue thinking about this book and the many ways it can be interpreted. Read if you are interested in: - Atmospheric, dreamlike descriptions - Magical realism - Vietnamese folklore + myths ** Thanks so much to the team at Tandem Collective and Oneworld Publications for sending over this truly unique book — available now at all your local bookshops!

  24. 5 out of 5

    Cathy Block

    This is truly an epic work that had me glued to the pages from the first chapter. I found myself laughing because this book is so full of surprises and they come at you on nearly every page. The author has an original and quirky sense of humor- one that I can’t define, but I haven’t read anywhere else. She really has her own voice and it’s complex, clever and often funny. The book takes place in Vietnam with a plot that spans some 60 years. The story brings Vietnam to life with interesting, flav This is truly an epic work that had me glued to the pages from the first chapter. I found myself laughing because this book is so full of surprises and they come at you on nearly every page. The author has an original and quirky sense of humor- one that I can’t define, but I haven’t read anywhere else. She really has her own voice and it’s complex, clever and often funny. The book takes place in Vietnam with a plot that spans some 60 years. The story brings Vietnam to life with interesting, flavorful characters and is filled with fascinating folklore and history . The author took great care with minute details and is impressively thorough every step of the way. Kupersmith brings her characters and places to life in the same vivid way that Elena Ferrante does in My Brilliant Friend, although this is a very different book. This book has ghosts, fortune tellers and lots of Vietnamese cuisine. The plot takes you on a ride that is filled with twists and turns. The protagonist, Winnie is a young Vietnamese American teacher living in Vietnam, who is deeply flawed, interesting and funny. But all of the actors in this book are flawed and funny in some way. They are compelling people that I enjoyed reading about and couldn’t wait to find out what would happen to them next. This is a complex book that moves at a fast pace because it keeps coming at you with bizarre unpredictable events that thicken the mystery. I felt as though I was on an exciting and kinetic ride. Kupersmith weaves the story together like a clever master. I simply couldn’t put this book down. I loved it. It’s nothing short of brilliant.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Mariah

    Build Your House Around My Body has moments of wonderful unpredictability. Framed around a present day disappearance, it weaves together a tapestry of enriching, supernatural, Vietnamese stories. Twenty-something Winnie feels like her life is a dead end with a job she hates teaching English in Saigon and no friends, family, or significant other in sight. When she goes missing, connections past and present emerge pulling significant details into focus of how this development occurred and might ev Build Your House Around My Body has moments of wonderful unpredictability. Framed around a present day disappearance, it weaves together a tapestry of enriching, supernatural, Vietnamese stories. Twenty-something Winnie feels like her life is a dead end with a job she hates teaching English in Saigon and no friends, family, or significant other in sight. When she goes missing, connections past and present emerge pulling significant details into focus of how this development occurred and might even be a blessing. Exploring estranged families, unreciprocated love, and the relentless battles of womanhood, this story unfolds layers of biting, illuminating histories. This novel starts out strong painting a detailed account of Winnie's upbringing and current discontentment with her surroundings. Its nonlinear structure was at points frustrating trying to piece all the details together. The map and character list were helpful, but it still felt difficult matching up the timelines. Providing a timeline afterward or reshuffling some of the chapters would have been helpful in appreciating the full course of events. I loved the nuanced characterizations and parallels between Winnie and Binh, and found myself longing to read more of them rather than venturing off with other characters. A solid start, varying middle, but an ending that made me glad I stuck it out. Thank you NetGalley and Random House for the copy!

  26. 4 out of 5

    Tessa Palfrey

    It is fantastically difficult to categorize this book. Is it horror? historical fiction? comedy? a ghost story? There is absolutely no good way to summarize or explain this book. What I CAN say is that you are in very good hands with Violet Kupersmith. There are many disparate threads in this book, but they weave together beautifully by the end. Here is what you will get from this book: gorgeous descriptions of Vietnam, folklore, excellent characters, colonization of both countries and bodies, da It is fantastically difficult to categorize this book. Is it horror? historical fiction? comedy? a ghost story? There is absolutely no good way to summarize or explain this book. What I CAN say is that you are in very good hands with Violet Kupersmith. There are many disparate threads in this book, but they weave together beautifully by the end. Here is what you will get from this book: gorgeous descriptions of Vietnam, folklore, excellent characters, colonization of both countries and bodies, dark and hilarious but also lovely writing, smoke monsters, fortune tellers, a talking dog, cobras, cemeteries, a lottery ticket, a character list, maps, women who disappear, and women who get revenge. You will also find use of the words such as phosphenes, dactylic, and scapulae. I love a book that talks nerdy to me. If you remember nothing else from this ramble, PLEASE remember this: If you read this book for no other reason (and there are a lot of good reasons to), read it for the story of the rat. It is perfection and it is beautiful and it had me smiling from ear to ear. One last note- this cover is gorgeous. Even more so after you’ve read the book and revisit the different patterns and textures in the illustration. Thank you to @randomhouse and @netgalley for the review copy!

  27. 4 out of 5

    Charlotte

    This huge, sweeping, dizzying debut defies categorisation and will leave your head spinning in the best possible way. A young American woman, Winnie, has gone missing in Vietnam, and her sort-of-boyfriend Long begins increasingly frantic attempts to find her, gradually realising the seriousness of the situation – but we’re then immediately whisked up to the country’s Highlands, eighteen years earlier, to watch a funeral procession in a rural town. The time-travelling continues in beautifully-cra This huge, sweeping, dizzying debut defies categorisation and will leave your head spinning in the best possible way. A young American woman, Winnie, has gone missing in Vietnam, and her sort-of-boyfriend Long begins increasingly frantic attempts to find her, gradually realising the seriousness of the situation – but we’re then immediately whisked up to the country’s Highlands, eighteen years earlier, to watch a funeral procession in a rural town. The time-travelling continues in beautifully-crafted vignettes like interlocking rooms, each one leading to another in an unexpected way, haunted by ghosts which become increasingly familiar as the connections between characters unfold. It is a sensorial fever dream of a book that’ll frequently make you stop, blink, reread sentences and remain profoundly unsettled – not just by the terrifying magical realism that Kupersmith deftly uses when you least expect it – but by the country’s violent colonial history and decades of cruel wrongdoing that leaves her ghosts bloodthirsty for revenge, lying silently in wait for her characters, hidden just beneath the surface of the story. Featured in the July issue of Cambridge Edition Magazine – https://online.bright-publishing.com/... thanks to #NetGalley for the advance copy!

  28. 4 out of 5

    Rebecca Chekouras

    Not since James Hannaham’s astonishing Delicious Foods, has a novel grabbed me this hard. From the opening scene, Build Your House Around My Body (Random House, 2021) its characters, their situations, the dangers they constantly provoke and skirt, and the several worlds they navigate closed a fist around my ankle and dragged me from scene to scene like a ragdoll in the sticky grip of a sugar loaded toddler, my head bouncing along the floor and knocking against the furniture. Stories can be magni Not since James Hannaham’s astonishing Delicious Foods, has a novel grabbed me this hard. From the opening scene, Build Your House Around My Body (Random House, 2021) its characters, their situations, the dangers they constantly provoke and skirt, and the several worlds they navigate closed a fist around my ankle and dragged me from scene to scene like a ragdoll in the sticky grip of a sugar loaded toddler, my head bouncing along the floor and knocking against the furniture. Stories can be magnificent in their conception and still fail in the telling. Violet Kupersmith, however, has produced a confident narration that succeeds in building a multidimensional world of flesh and spirit, of the mundane and the impossible, all the while expertly guiding the reader through its shape shifting properties. Her narrator kept me grounded in time and place and attached to the characters despite a nonlinear timeline and spirit possessions that flung individual psyches from one host character to another. Juicy writing makes for satisfying reading and this is a terrific novel. Kupersmith’s story of the Vietnamese who stayed or were born after the war and their intersection with the returning children of those who fled to America is masterful at using undercurrents of impermanence in her characters’ lives to deepen the reader’s appreciation for their ability to endure difficult circumstances. Her larger theme, however, is disappearance and the instability of identity when sense of place falters and here again she shines. I have one complaint and though it seems trivial to bring it up it did start to nag at me about two thirds through. The character of Winnie, around whom the action swirls, lags too long on the page, remaining unchanged as the others progress. While Winnie has the same day and night over and over, the rest of the ensemble come to vivid life. Their exploits have a compounding urgency Winnie lacks. And yet she is clearly the center of the story as made clear by the chapter titles. It wasn’t until the very end, when the last piece clicked into place and the picture locked, that I saw how this all worked. And while Kupersmith had laid hints at seemingly random moments throughout her narrative, I felt she could have sharpened her pencil and drawn a cleaner throughline for Winnie. Still, this is the novel I will be urging everyone to read for months to come. I want YOU to read this book. And when you do, let me offer a suggestion that is devoid of spoilers: pay particular attention to pages 39, 339, 351, and 357. Therein lies the essence of Winnie’s story, the reason this novel is so triumphant at close.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Celeste Miller

    I enjoyed this book. I ended up listening to it. It felt longer than 400 pages! The beginning starts slowly and introduces really different characters, and at very different timelines too. At first I had no idea how they were connected, but as the book continues I started piecing it all together. And, there are smoke ghosts and snakes and ghost snakes! At one point I was trying to sleep and had to chase the smoke ghost out of my mind because it was creeping me out. By the time I got 70% into the I enjoyed this book. I ended up listening to it. It felt longer than 400 pages! The beginning starts slowly and introduces really different characters, and at very different timelines too. At first I had no idea how they were connected, but as the book continues I started piecing it all together. And, there are smoke ghosts and snakes and ghost snakes! At one point I was trying to sleep and had to chase the smoke ghost out of my mind because it was creeping me out. By the time I got 70% into the book, I could not stop reading. Things were making sense and remaining creepy. The final few pages really closed it out with a good a-ha moment too. *Note - my eARC wouldn't stay open on my kindle and just crashed the app repeatedly. So I got the audiobook from the library after the publication date.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Liz

    I absolutely loved this book. It’s my favorite read of the year thus far. The elements of horror, ghosts, the body as a vessel, and all the symbolism is ALL my cup of tea. There’s some body horror that made me almost barf, so beware of that going in. I wish I would have read a physical version of this book- not because I disliked the audiobook, it was great. I just personally prefer reading literary fiction irl vs in audio because I like to pause over sentences and be like “damn.” Which is what I absolutely loved this book. It’s my favorite read of the year thus far. The elements of horror, ghosts, the body as a vessel, and all the symbolism is ALL my cup of tea. There’s some body horror that made me almost barf, so beware of that going in. I wish I would have read a physical version of this book- not because I disliked the audiobook, it was great. I just personally prefer reading literary fiction irl vs in audio because I like to pause over sentences and be like “damn.” Which is what I would’ve done with this book. Highly recommend if you love subtle horror, revenge tales, magical realism, and interconnected storylines!

Add a review

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Loading...
We use cookies to give you the best online experience. By using our website you agree to our use of cookies in accordance with our cookie policy.