‘The Best We Could Do’
Thi Bui’s memoir beautifully illustrates the story of her family as they escaped the terror of South Vietnam in the 1970s. Presented in a graphic novel format, her gorgeous, masterful drawings narrate their harrowing journey to California and provide an unflinching look into their lives and the ways they were affected by the war.
Bui begins her story in 2005 in New York as her son is born but switches back and forth in time as she continues, going from past to present to depict her parents’ childhood, eventual meeting and marriage, the birth of her siblings, and her family’s immigration to America from Saigon when she was just 3 years old.
“I keep looking toward the past…tracing our journey in reverse…over the ocean…through the war…seeking an origin story that will set everything right,” Bui writes. Helped by research, interviews with her family, a trip back to Saigon and conversations with her parents, Bui pieces together information to understand her parents’ experiences and where she came from, all of which shaped who she has become.
Unsparingly, with affecting, stunning artwork, Bui explores the history of her family and the ways the trauma and struggles her parents experienced seeped into their lives. Heartbreaking, hopeful, painful and detailed, Bui’s moving memoir is an intimate and intense look at a remarkable family that she has come to better understand and embrace. ♦ — Review by Fay Jones
There’s subtle warmth that comes from spending time in the world through David Sedaris’ eyes, or perhaps through his words. Somewhere in the twisted, prickly and almost painfully apt turns of phrase that make up a Sedaris book, a moment comes in which the humor and biting wit coalesce into a very human core. It’s that warm, fuzzy moment that has had me eagerly reading each book within days of its release for more than a decade.
“Calypso” delivers in spades.
A somewhat rougher tone, understandable given both his age and the current political climate, saturates “Calypso,” and the book feels even more intimate for it. The wryly perceptive mind is still there — delivering gut-punch one-liners and shocking family stories — but that mind is now darker, sadder, older, angrier. There is more depth, more shadow and conversely more heart in “Calypso” than any previous Sedaris book, and it absolutely shines with it.
There’s a special place in my bookish, misanthropic heart for every Sedaris story, but I have no qualms saying this is his best work yet. Don’t miss it. ♦ — Review by Julie Goodrich