The reader grows along with Linda, the synesthetic protagonist, learning how to sort out the flavors from their corresponding words as this novel progresses. Themes of abandonment, alienation within the family, and fear of discovery provide a strong bond between Linda and her favorite uncle, but an equal strength surfaces in the relationship with her best friend and the power of the written word. Attention to detail in word selection and emotional nuance made this an astonishingly good read.— From Emily A.
“The 'growing up in the south' story is a genre in itself, but in the hands of Monique Truong it is fresh and unique. To be sure, there are the required eccentric relatives, the best friend and the first love, but Linda has a few characteristics that make her a genuine outsider. First, she is Asian, and, second, she has a synesthesia that causes her to experience spoken words as a taste. It is a distracting and sometimes painful experience that she slowly learns to accept, but it always makes her feel different. Written in a way to allow the reader to understand the synesthesia -- some conversations are recorded with the accompanying tastes behind the words -- this book is both tender and laugh out loud funny.”
— Ann Carlson, Harborwalk Books, Georgetown, SC
Bitter in the Mouth is a brilliant, virtuosic novel about a young woman’s search for identity and the true meaning of family.
“What I know about you, little girl, would break you in two” are the prophetic last words that Linda Hammerick’s grandmother says to her. Growing up in small-town North Carolina in the 1970s and ’80s, Linda already knows that she is profoundly different from everyone else, including the members of her own family. She can “taste” words. In this and in other ways, her body is a mystery to her. Linda’s awkward girlhood is nonetheless enlivened and emboldened by her dancing great-uncle Harper, and Kelly, her letter-writing best friend. Linda makes her way north to college and then to New York City, trying her best to leave her past behind her like “a pair of shoes that no longer fit.” But when a family tragedy compels her to return home, Linda uncovers the startling secrets of her past. Monique Truong’s acclaimed novel questions our assumptions about what it means to be a family and to be a friend, to be foreign and to be familiar, to be connected to and disconnected from our bodies, our histories, ourselves.
“A coming-of-age tale with a magical ferocity that recalls Doctorow and Nabokov.”—Jayne Anne Phillips, author of Lark & Termite
“A beautifully written, complex story of self-discovery.”—The Boston Globe
“Truong explores—and explodes—[her characters’] secrets at a captivating pace. . . . Reminiscent of The Heart is a Lonely Hunter.”—The New York Times Book Review
“A searing exploration of intimacy and enmity, language, betrayal, and silence, Bitter in the Mouth is as dazzling as it is deeply emotional. It also has the best twist in its tail—ever.”—Parade