On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous
Poet Ocean Vuong's debut novel is a shattering portrait of a family, a first love, and the redemptive power of storytellingOn Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous 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 — a history whose epicenter is rooted in Vietnam — and serves as a doorway into parts of his life his mother has never known, all of it leading to an unforgettable revelation. At once a witness to the fraught yet undeniable love between a single mother and her son, it is also a brutally honest exploration of race, class, and masculinity. Asking questions central to our American moment, immersed as we are in addiction, violence, and trauma, but undergirded by compassion and tenderness, On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous is as much about the power of telling one's own story as it is about the obliterating silence of not being heard.With stunning urgency and grace, Ocean Vuong writes of people caught between disparate worlds, and asks how we heal and rescue one another without forsaking who we are. The question of how to survive, and how to make of it a kind of joy, powers the most important debut novel of many years.

On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous Details

TitleOn Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous
Author
LanguageEnglish
ReleaseJun 4th, 2019
PublisherPenguin Press
ISBN-139780525562023
Rating
GenreFiction, Poetry, LGBT, Contemporary, Literary Fiction, GLBT, Queer

On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous Review

  • Angela M
    January 1, 1970
    This is such a beautiful book title and it was the title that drew me to read the description and request a copy of it. Not only is the title beautiful, but much of the writing here is as well. It’s described as literary fiction, but a brief look at Ocean Vuong’s bio after I read this book made the biographical nature of the story striking. This letter from a young Vietnamese immigrant to his mother who doesn’t know how to read is raw, impactful, achingly sad, painful to read. It is filled with This is such a beautiful book title and it was the title that drew me to read the description and request a copy of it. Not only is the title beautiful, but much of the writing here is as well. It’s described as literary fiction, but a brief look at Ocean Vuong’s bio after I read this book made the biographical nature of the story striking. This letter from a young Vietnamese immigrant to his mother who doesn’t know how to read is raw, impactful, achingly sad, painful to read. It is filled with flashbacks to his childhood when he is bullied at school, physically abused by his mother, protected by his grandmother. It is filled with stories and memories of his mother and grandmother’s past fleeing Vietnam as their pasts become part of his story. It is about a love between a mother and son. It is a story of a young boy trying to find his place in this country. It’s an intimate portrait of his first relationship as he falls in love with another boy. (A warning to those who might be bothered by explicit sex scenes. You’ll find them here.) The vivid descriptions of the times he spent in the nail salon where his mother worked were eye opening. There’s drug addiction. There are also poignant moments reflecting his love of his mother and grandmother. The stream of consciousness felt a bit disjointed in last part feeling more like random thoughts , and it lacked the cohesiveness of the earlier part for me., thus 4 instead of 5 stars. This book is not for everyone, but it’s worth reading for the beautiful language and amazing portrait of the Vietnamese immigrant experience, for the intimate piece of his heart and soul that this writer shares .I received an advanced copy of this book from Penguin Press through Edelweiss.
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  • Celeste Ng
    January 1, 1970
    ON EARTH WE'RE BRIEFLY GORGEOUS will be described--rightly--as luminous, shattering, urgent, necessary. But the word I keep circling back to is raw: that's how powerful the emotions here are, and how you'll feel after reading it--scoured down to bone. With a poet's precision, Ocean Vuong examines whether putting words to one's experience can bridge wounds that span generations, and whether it's ever possible to be truly heard by those we love most.
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  • anna (readingpeaches)
    January 1, 1970
    i want to tattoo on earth we're briefly gorgeous on my ribs but it's cool i'm cool abt this book Blog | Twitter | Instagram | Bloglovin | Reads Rainbow
  • Jeff Zentner
    January 1, 1970
    Thank you to Penguin for an advance copy of this book. Sometimes you think you know well the geography of the land of words and language. Then, a book takes you by the hand and says look. And it shows you soaring mountains, crystalline waterfalls, and golden meadows you’d never before seen. You see your world in a whole new way. This is that book. This book packs an unfathomable amount of terrible, haunting beauty; wisdom; love; sensuality; and living and dying into its urgent 242 pages. But mak Thank you to Penguin for an advance copy of this book. Sometimes you think you know well the geography of the land of words and language. Then, a book takes you by the hand and says look. And it shows you soaring mountains, crystalline waterfalls, and golden meadows you’d never before seen. You see your world in a whole new way. This is that book. This book packs an unfathomable amount of terrible, haunting beauty; wisdom; love; sensuality; and living and dying into its urgent 242 pages. But make no mistake: it is not a quick read. You will find yourself dwelling on single lines, running your fingers along them in wonder of their craft. On every page, Ocean Vuong turns you inside out to show you how your heart is stitched together; turns the fabric of humankind inside out to show you how it’s stitched together. Reading some books feels like staring into the sun, robbing you of your vocabulary to describe them, the way the sun temporarily steals your sight. And so you have left only the simplest and most stalwart words to describe what you’ve seen: Masterpiece.
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  • Trish
    January 1, 1970
    This work is called a novel but it is a ball of flame tossed into a dark night, blinding, brilliant, searing. Who knows if it is poetry or novel or memoir; the language fills the mouth and is saturated with truth. We recognize it. We’ve tasted it. We are pained by it. It still hurts.Something here is reminiscent of the epic poetry of Homer. Life's brutality, man’s frailty, the odyssey, the clash of civilizations, the incomparable language undeniably capturing human experience, these things make This work is called a novel but it is a ball of flame tossed into a dark night, blinding, brilliant, searing. Who knows if it is poetry or novel or memoir; the language fills the mouth and is saturated with truth. We recognize it. We’ve tasted it. We are pained by it. It still hurts.Something here is reminiscent of the epic poetry of Homer. Life's brutality, man’s frailty, the odyssey, the clash of civilizations, the incomparable language undeniably capturing human experience, these things make Vuong someone who heightens our awareness, deepens our experience, shocks us into acknowledgement of our shared experiences. What have we in common with a Greek of ancient times singing of a war and the personal trials of man? What have we in common with a gay immigrant boy writing of war and the personal trials of man?The story is clear enough but fragmentary. In a Nov 2017 LitHub interview, Vuong tells us ”I’m writing a novel composed of woven inter-genre fragments. To me, a book made entirely out of unbridged fractures feels most faithful to the physical and psychological displacement I experience as a human being. I’m interested in a novel that consciously rejects the notion that something has to be whole in order to tell a complete story. I also want to interrogate the arbitrary measurements of a “successful” literary work, particularly as it relates to canonical Western values. For example, we traditionally privilege congruency and balance in fiction, we want our themes linked, our conflicts “resolved,” and our plots “ironed out.” But when one arrives at the page through colonized, plundered, and erased histories and diasporas, to write a smooth and cohesive novel is to ultimately write a lie. In a way, I’m curious about a work that rejects its patriarchal predecessors as a way of accepting its fissured self. I think, perennially, of Theresa Hak Kyung Cha’s Dictée. This resistance to dominant convention is not only the isolated concern of marginalized writers—but all writers—and perhaps especially white writers, who can gain so much by questioning how the ways we value art can replicate the very oppressive legacies we strive to end.”The novel he speaks of is this one. I did not understand that paragraph when I first read it as well as I do now. I am more aware, too, having looked closely for the Western world’s acknowledged historical tendency to erase or ignore pieces of experience not congruent with their own worldview.The language Vuong brings is exquisite and extraordinary: “The fluorescent hums steady above them, as if the scene is a dream the light is having.” “…the thing about beauty is that it’s only beautiful outside of itself.” “The carpet under his bare feet is shiny as spilled oil from years of wear.” “…repeating piles of rotted firewood, the oily mounds gone mushy…” “He had a thick face and pomaded hair, even at this hour, like Elvis on on his last day on earth.”Vuong repeats motifs to tie the experiences of one person to the rest of his life, to tie one person’s experiences to those of others: “I’m at war.” “We cracked up. We cracked open.” “…you never see yourself if you’re the sun. You don’t even know where you are in the sky.” “…my cheek bone stinging from the first blow.” “I was yellow.”A teen, immigrated to the U.S. from Vietnam with his mother, grandmother, and aunt finds himself fleeing his “shitty high school to spend [his] days in New York lost in library stacks,” from whence he, first in this family to go to college, squanders his opportunity on an English degree. The teen discovers his gayness and does not flee it, though his white lover agonizes and denies all his life. We watch that boy fall, wither, die under the scourge of fentanyl and opioid addiction and Vuong places the scourge in the wider context of an awry world. Despite (or perhaps because of) the fragmented, shattered nature of the tale, there is a real momentum to this novel, Vuong telling us things not articulated in this way before: a familiar war from a new angle, the friction burn of the immigrant experience, the roughness of gay sex, the madness of living untethered in the world. The language is so precise, so surprising, so wide-awake and fresh, that we read to see. Last year, in September of 2018, I reviewed Vuong’s first book of poetry, Night Sky with Exit Wounds. The poems had many of the same tendencies toward epic poetry—they were big, and meaningful. On my blog I have attached a short video of Vuong reading from that collection to give you some idea of his power. You're welcome, readers.
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  • Jaclyn Crupi
    January 1, 1970
    There is something magical that can happen when a poet turns to prose. This is a beautiful, raw and powerful letter of love from a son to his illiterate mother. It all comes back to love and survival but Vuong is exploring race, class, inter-generational trauma, sexuality and masculinity and it’s transformative. With a poet’s precision, the violence and beauty of life are rendered and the question asked is can those closest to us hear our cries to survive? A truly stunning and luminous read.
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  • Josh Hereth
    January 1, 1970
    I know, I know, it’s incredibly overdue, but trust me, you want to savor every single word of this book. Literally the best kick off for 2019. All parts beauty and a work on identity. Much like Alexander Chee, ON EARTH WE’RE BRIEFLY GORGEOUS portrays incredible amounts of terrible, haunting images and paints them with beauty, love, and sexuality. It’s art at its finest, and writing like none other.
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  • Tyler Goodson
    January 1, 1970
    Ocean Vuong's novel is an exercise in recovery. Or, as Little Dog puts it, "relief, through extravagant spectacle." The spectacle here is Vuong's language, his stories, his sentences. As Little Dog traces the history of his mother, her mother, and their escape from Vietnam, he traces their history as outsiders. Little Dog is himself an outsider, queer and Vietnamese, and his story, of family, sex, love, and a million other things, is thrilling to read because it is true: it contains the violence Ocean Vuong's novel is an exercise in recovery. Or, as Little Dog puts it, "relief, through extravagant spectacle." The spectacle here is Vuong's language, his stories, his sentences. As Little Dog traces the history of his mother, her mother, and their escape from Vietnam, he traces their history as outsiders. Little Dog is himself an outsider, queer and Vietnamese, and his story, of family, sex, love, and a million other things, is thrilling to read because it is true: it contains the violence, beauty, filth, and purity of life all at once. This is a novel about how to live in that present. How sometimes we are not borne of the past, but survivors of it.
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  • Jillian Doherty
    January 1, 1970
    I wish there was 10 stars to give ~ I wanted to write this review as soon as I finished, to hold on to it a little longer. To be able to share the brutally kind emotional saturation it bestows upon you. To remember the feel of his story telling to properly share an accurate review - but, amazingly it's power fully robs you. I just had to sit here for a minute, decompress. I don't remember the last time I read something that made my eyes prickle on the edge of weeping, or how each time I'd take i I wish there was 10 stars to give ~ I wanted to write this review as soon as I finished, to hold on to it a little longer. To be able to share the brutally kind emotional saturation it bestows upon you. To remember the feel of his story telling to properly share an accurate review - but, amazingly it's power fully robs you. I just had to sit here for a minute, decompress. I don't remember the last time I read something that made my eyes prickle on the edge of weeping, or how each time I'd take in a few chapters I'd have to take breaks as to not overflow with too much emotion. His writing is liquid illustration; he's insatiably quotable, and I am still humming/numb all at once.
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  • Sara Snyder
    January 1, 1970
    Thanks to a friend, I was able to get my hands on an advance readers edition of this book. I’ve never read Ocean Vuong's poetry before but WOW, this was beautiful. This uniquely written love letter left me feeling a lot of emotion. It was tender and intimate. It made me think about our flaws as human beings and self-compassion in which so many of us lack. Since one of my goals in 2019 is to choose more complex and interesting reads, this book definitely fit the bill. I’d highly recommend this fo Thanks to a friend, I was able to get my hands on an advance readers edition of this book. I’ve never read Ocean Vuong's poetry before but WOW, this was beautiful. This uniquely written love letter left me feeling a lot of emotion. It was tender and intimate. It made me think about our flaws as human beings and self-compassion in which so many of us lack. Since one of my goals in 2019 is to choose more complex and interesting reads, this book definitely fit the bill. I’d highly recommend this for someone who appreciates a read in which evokes intense emotion that you can apply and reflect on in your own life.
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  • Rachel
    January 1, 1970
    rtc
  • Nora
    January 1, 1970
    This book is a poem wrapped into a novel with care and hurt so intimate, they feel impossible to articulate. Yet Vuong has shaped the muddied violence of a life into an offering so filled with tenderness, it will leave you aching. From pain, anger, and longing, Vuong uproots us, plants us in this vessel, and gives us the sky.
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  • Paris (parisperusing)
    January 1, 1970
    Thoughts after the second attempt: I wanted to enjoy this novel, as I'd been intrigued by Vuong's poetry. However, I think it is quite clear, that the novel may not be his strongest form. While there were many bursts of veracity and beauty, they were sadly outnumbered by pretentious and unnecessary detail. This line, particularly, seemed quite ridiculous: "It was not until the blood ran from his mother's nose, turning her white shirt the color of Elmo on Sesame Street." (I truly hope this line d Thoughts after the second attempt: I wanted to enjoy this novel, as I'd been intrigued by Vuong's poetry. However, I think it is quite clear, that the novel may not be his strongest form. While there were many bursts of veracity and beauty, they were sadly outnumbered by pretentious and unnecessary detail. This line, particularly, seemed quite ridiculous: "It was not until the blood ran from his mother's nose, turning her white shirt the color of Elmo on Sesame Street." (I truly hope this line does not make the final print because… really?) I lasted maybe 20 or so pages afterward, but there were other lines that I'll omit to spare negativity — but this book could have been something splendid if it didn't feel so forced. Perhaps if this was marketed only as a memoir, as I could fathom a young Ocean might be capable of drawing together much better metaphors.I loved learning about Little Dog's family, the importance of language and identity and his spiritual connection to these facets, but the writing is overdone. What we have here is a great poet making one too many nimble turns to surprise his reader. (I still may try to finish again, but the excitement is gone.)Thoughts after first attempt: DNF, for now, because it's almost too pretentious for my liking. Will pick up again before the official drop.
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  • Jackie
    January 1, 1970
    i am....so deeply moved and changed and full. i close my eyes and all i is see rust red pick up trucks and the night sky and buffaloes and bowls of rice with jasmine tea and hands on skin and the smell of acetone. no one writes as evocatively and tenderly!!!! as whitney houston would say, “i get so emotional baby/every time i think of you” but it’s me, at ocean vuong. which is funny because i listened to this song a lot while reading this, and she’s actually in the acknowledgements!! this book i i am....so deeply moved and changed and full. i close my eyes and all i is see rust red pick up trucks and the night sky and buffaloes and bowls of rice with jasmine tea and hands on skin and the smell of acetone. no one writes as evocatively and tenderly!!!! as whitney houston would say, “i get so emotional baby/every time i think of you” but it’s me, at ocean vuong. which is funny because i listened to this song a lot while reading this, and she’s actually in the acknowledgements!! this book is a gift. a painful and beautiful gift that is brimming with hope and love and nuance and SO MUCH!!!!!
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  • Jenna
    January 1, 1970
    [book gifted from @penguinpress] • “I’m not telling you a story so much as a shipwreck - the pieces floating, lit up, finally legible.” On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong is an incredibly moving portrait of one boy’s life growing up in Hartford as the child of Vietnamese immigrants deeply touched by war.The book is written as a long letter from a son to his mother who cannot read. Sitting here writing this review, I realize I don’t remember the boy’s name, or if we even know his name [book gifted from @penguinpress] • “I’m not telling you a story so much as a shipwreck - the pieces floating, lit up, finally legible.” On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong is an incredibly moving portrait of one boy’s life growing up in Hartford as the child of Vietnamese immigrants deeply touched by war.The book is written as a long letter from a son to his mother who cannot read. Sitting here writing this review, I realize I don’t remember the boy’s name, or if we even know his name. I just know him as Little Dog, his nickname. Little Dog suffers abuse at the hands of his mother, who loves him but is traumatized by her past as a child of war in Vietnam. When Little Dog works on a tobacco farm one summer, he meets Trevor, a white boy who lives in a trailer with his father and is more philosophical than one would assume just by looking at his rough exterior. Trevor and Little Dog begin a years long friendship turned first love that is tender and beautiful but ultimately tragic.I loved this book, but I do want to warn you that I’d give it an R rating if it were a movie. It deals with abuse, mental illness, and drugs, and also has explicit sex scenes. It deals with heavy themes like race and poverty and addiction and class and masculinity. All of these topics are written about in the most stunning language that could only come from a poet. The imagery conjured up by Vuong’s writing put you right there with Little Dog, feeling what he’s feeling. It’s really something.I highly recommend this book. I really don’t know if I’ve read anything else quite like it. The pieces wove together so naturally that even though the story wasn’t completely linear, it wasn’t difficult to follow. The writing in this book... I wish I was better at describing things, because I keep saying “stunning” and “beautiful” and honestly, those are understatements. Something about the way Vuong writes just brings the feelings immediately. I’m here for every novel he ever writes. And maybe I’ll even try his poetry 🤓
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  • Gretchen
    January 1, 1970
    I'm wrecked from this book. I stayed up til 1am to finish it, I couldn't set it aside. It's one of the best books I have read in the last decade, if not the best. It's such an intense, unflinching, careful, loving, pitiless, above all beautifully written book, a spiraling letter from a son to his Vietnamese immigrant mother, meditating upon the abuse and joy they have each felt in their lives, the moments where their connections burned bright and flared out, the timid hopeful, secretive first lo I'm wrecked from this book. I stayed up til 1am to finish it, I couldn't set it aside. It's one of the best books I have read in the last decade, if not the best. It's such an intense, unflinching, careful, loving, pitiless, above all beautifully written book, a spiraling letter from a son to his Vietnamese immigrant mother, meditating upon the abuse and joy they have each felt in their lives, the moments where their connections burned bright and flared out, the timid hopeful, secretive first love he found with a boy, the intergenerational trauma and PTSD of a family borne through the effects of war and colonization. Intimate, beautiful, absolutely gutting, rarely have I seen such a clear evocation of a life. All the warnings, including for child abuse, animal abuse, racial abuse, homophobia, sexual abuse, war trauma. An incredible feat of a novel if you think you can face the brutal truth of it. Also, one of the best (awkward, terrifying reality and incredible wonder of it at once) first time gay sex scenes I've ever read.
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  • xTx xTx
    January 1, 1970
    i know. i know i discovered Ocean Vuong's poetry in 2010 because i reviewed his book, Ocean's Burning. I knew he was a magical then and he has remained magical. this book has a loveliness and a tenderness. He uses language in a way that i covet. This book is a beautiful love letter. I am proud I recognized beauty so early. I feel like he was Justin Bieber at age 7 on a youtube video and i was the producer guy who watched him and just knew.
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  • Meike
    January 1, 1970
    ...let's face it: That German cover is much nicer than the English one! :-)
  • William
    January 1, 1970
    There is so much to marvel over in this astonishing fiction debut from Ocean Vuong, who is able to navigate seamlessly between themes as large as the convention of naming, cycles of violence, displacement, American identity, and what love is. At the heart of this novel is a meditation on what it means to be as fragile and tenuous a thing as a human being. Ocean Vuong reaches for that truth with every page in this book that is equal parts open letter, elegy, and myth.
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  • Tory
    January 1, 1970
    I'm sorry, Ocean. I'm not your target audience. Stream-of-consciousness makes me itchy and confused; I thrive on plots and my capacity for poetry is finite. There was a sharp, biting, anxious love story here that entranced me -- made my heart and bones ache -- but it was buried in so many layers of ramblings and literary gibberish and phrases that *seemed* super deep and meaningful until you read them again and they're nonsense: "They say nothing lasts forever but I'm writing you in the voice of I'm sorry, Ocean. I'm not your target audience. Stream-of-consciousness makes me itchy and confused; I thrive on plots and my capacity for poetry is finite. There was a sharp, biting, anxious love story here that entranced me -- made my heart and bones ache -- but it was buried in so many layers of ramblings and literary gibberish and phrases that *seemed* super deep and meaningful until you read them again and they're nonsense: "They say nothing lasts forever but I'm writing you in the voice of an endangered species.""Is that what art is? To be touched thinking what we feel is ours when, in the end, it was someone else, in longing, who finds us?"Like, WHAT? So yeah, if you're like me, give this one a pass. I KNOW others will love this and it's their right to, absolutely, but to me, this book was only briefly gorgeous and mostly tedious.
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  • Myra
    January 1, 1970
    Unique. Poetic Intimacy.
  • Will
    January 1, 1970
    Ocean Vuong's novel is intimate and deeply heart wrenching. Vuong writes relationships at a level I have never before encountered. I cannot stop thinking about Vuong's latest. I'll follow him anywhere.
  • Christopher Jones
    January 1, 1970
    POETIC MAGNIFICENCE ❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤❤ POETIC MAGNIFICENCE ❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️
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  • Sam Glatt
    January 1, 1970
    Through sweat and tears, I devoured this extraordinary achievement in one weekend. I sat in bed, staring out the window and into the patio I'm so lucky enough to have in my backyard, and I breathlessly turned these pages one after the other. I couldn't stop, I didn't want to, but at the same time I would do anything I could to prolong the experience I was having this this novel. I'd cook meals I didn't want to actually eat. I paced around the empty apartment, muttering to myself about nothing in Through sweat and tears, I devoured this extraordinary achievement in one weekend. I sat in bed, staring out the window and into the patio I'm so lucky enough to have in my backyard, and I breathlessly turned these pages one after the other. I couldn't stop, I didn't want to, but at the same time I would do anything I could to prolong the experience I was having this this novel. I'd cook meals I didn't want to actually eat. I paced around the empty apartment, muttering to myself about nothing in particular. I read other books, just one or two pages each (some poetry, a Didion essay, a chapter of another novel I'm currently in the midst of). I tried to write my own work, but my mind kept comparing what I was attempting to do with everything that I was experiencing through Ocean Vuong's truly immaculate prose. This is a story about appreciating life, and with moment that brought me closer to its final pages, I found my mind searching through the story of my own life, considering just how lucky I am to have been brought up in the way I was, the way I am. ON EARTH WE'RE BRIEFLY GORGEOUS is, without a doubt, one of those "once-in-a-lifetime" novels. It is proof of Vuong's power as a poet, it is proof of Vuong's ability to bring their poetry into another realm without betraying (though I hate to use that word) where they come from with their work. It is the story of a life, however brief. It is a story or survival, of family, of love and of death. It is a story of everything. I can't imagine that we'll be lucky enough to get another novel in this generation that matches up to the power of what lies within these pages, and I can only hope and pray that if we do, this novel will still deservedly stand the test of time. It's one of those stories that I feel everyone should read (and not in the same sense of some of the other novels I have recently reviewed on my page). Let Vuong sweep you away with this novel and trust that they will not betray you; they won't. Be swept away by this novel's beauty, devastation, and overall, its heart.
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  • Jonathan
    January 1, 1970
    “I’m not telling you a story so much as a shipwreck-the pieces floating, lit up, finally legible.”..On earth we’re briefly gorgeous was the name of a poem by Ocean Vuong from his debut collection, and this novel much like his previous work is so utterly beautiful it almost hurts, and I sit here straining to find words that justify the brilliance behind his writing. Vuong’s sentences mold together to form such a raw unabashed story that left me laughing one minute, and crying the next, he underst “I’m not telling you a story so much as a shipwreck-the pieces floating, lit up, finally legible.”..On earth we’re briefly gorgeous was the name of a poem by Ocean Vuong from his debut collection, and this novel much like his previous work is so utterly beautiful it almost hurts, and I sit here straining to find words that justify the brilliance behind his writing. Vuong’s sentences mold together to form such a raw unabashed story that left me laughing one minute, and crying the next, he understands the human condition and writes about it like very few have before him. He is a literary force with the soul of a poet and the stories of a classic novelist.. On earth…. Is a letter from a son to a mother who cannot read English. It tells their families life story from his grandmother and mother in Vietnam during the war, to their trek to America, to his life through childhood and teenage years, as he looks back on everything while in his late 20’s. Little Dog, the narrator ( one can assume is Vuong himself) explains the hardships of growing up in a foreign country the love between a small family, the grief and loss experienced, and his own coming to terms with his sexuality. His animated language brings such soul to this sorrowful tale. Without giving too much more of the novel away I will say I do think this will be nominated if not win either the man booker, the NBA, or next years pulitzer, and at the very least he will be awarded one of the 5 under 35 honors. However, we measure beauty and the magnitude of a book on its story and writing and in that category Vuong is unmatched as he says “If relative to the history of our planet, an individual life Is so short, a blink, as they say, then to be gorgeous, even from the day you’re born to the day you die, is to be gorgeous only briefly”
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  • Eva Nebbia
    January 1, 1970
    This is easily the best book I’ve read this year.
  • Joanie
    January 1, 1970
    I have been so unbelievably excited for this ever since I saw his update about an upcoming novel. the title is absolutely perfect and yes I already have a few VERY highly anticipated books for 2019 (aka stuff I'd delete plans for and just read read read in between food and sleep: Marlon James, Colson Whitehead, off the top of my head) but this one might be #1. even this update is late bc I should've added this book to my shelves the MOMENT I heard. & advanced copies are already going out so I have been so unbelievably excited for this ever since I saw his update about an upcoming novel. the title is absolutely perfect and yes I already have a few VERY highly anticipated books for 2019 (aka stuff I'd delete plans for and just read read read in between food and sleep: Marlon James, Colson Whitehead, off the top of my head) but this one might be #1. even this update is late bc I should've added this book to my shelves the MOMENT I heard. & advanced copies are already going out so I'm terribly envious. aching to read this. absolutely desperate.
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  • Kalen
    January 1, 1970
    Devastating. It took me 8 days to read this 256 page novel (or is it a memoir disguised as a novel?) because I kept going back to re-read sentences and paragraphs.
  • Liz
    January 1, 1970
    I added this book to my "want to read" shelf after hearing about it on NPR's Code Switch and won a free copy from Goodreads. Overall I really liked this book. The writing is beautiful and you can tell that the author is a poet. While I was reading I saw the narrative as a stretched out slinky (I'm sure there is a more elegant way to put this!). It is moving forward but does so by continually looping back. The story of Little Dog, written (loosely) as a letter to his mother, is heartbreaking in m I added this book to my "want to read" shelf after hearing about it on NPR's Code Switch and won a free copy from Goodreads. Overall I really liked this book. The writing is beautiful and you can tell that the author is a poet. While I was reading I saw the narrative as a stretched out slinky (I'm sure there is a more elegant way to put this!). It is moving forward but does so by continually looping back. The story of Little Dog, written (loosely) as a letter to his mother, is heartbreaking in many ways, but, as the title suggests, there is an undercurrent of beauty throughout. For me personally, there were times when the writing felt too loose and abstract and it seemed like the author was writing a very long poem more so than a novel. However, once I got into the rhythm of the storytelling, I was able to appreciate the style. This is an important story about the U.S. and Vietnam, about immigrant families whose stories do not often get told, about coming of age and coming out.
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  • Virginia
    January 1, 1970
    A beautifully written book that I couldn't believe was a debut novel! The story is written in first person as a cathartic letter to his mother who will never read its contents. The narrator uses this more as a method to come to terms with his identity by reflecting on his family's history and his own past. He talks about stories he heard from his grandma during the Vietnam War all the way to six months ago when his family gathers together to bury her. His identity spans beyond his family histor A beautifully written book that I couldn't believe was a debut novel! The story is written in first person as a cathartic letter to his mother who will never read its contents. The narrator uses this more as a method to come to terms with his identity by reflecting on his family's history and his own past. He talks about stories he heard from his grandma during the Vietnam War all the way to six months ago when his family gathers together to bury her. His identity spans beyond his family history and covers issues with race, sexuality, violence, and the loss of innocence. Vuong's writing is intense in the best ways to allow the reader to full immerse themselves in the emotions he tries to convey throughout the text. The chapters split between various points of time, but he writes so fluidly that you won't get lost between each time jump. He also has a way of finding the beauty in even the darkest of corners. I would recommend this to anyone who loves literary fiction and questions their place within the norms of society. **Read in an ARC thanks to Riverhead**
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