This beautifully written book is difficult to describe. The text is a letter that the main character, who we know only by his nickname, Little Dog, writes to his mother, Rose, who will never be able to read it. Little Dog, his mother, and his grandmother Lan move from Viet Nam to Hartford, Connecticut. In both locations they experience violence, evil and bigotry. Through Little Dog’s retelling of his life in bits and pieces, we learn much about him and the people he cares about.
On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous is not an easy read. It goes back and forth in time often. Some of the novel is written as stream of conscious, and some of the scenes Vuong describes are horrifically graphic. However, there are many sentences throughout this debut novel that are “gorgeously” quotable and thought-provoking.