With natural, immediately engaging prose, Nguyen tells 8 very different stories of Vietnamese characters, striving to find their places in the world. Leaving one culture for another finds these people often straddling two ways of life, never without memory of the past. Two of the stories are actually set in Viet Nam with those who either chose to go there or to remain in their homeland. The ghost of the son/brother of a mother and daughter in the U.S. visits for the final closure and, in another tale, a family is hounded to contribute money to continued warfare in the homeland. Universal to the refugee experience, this collection represents all who have come to America for better lives. Capping the stories off are two essays by Nguyen, a bonus from this wise and witty observer.