Title: On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous
Author: Ocean Vuong
Length: 256 pages
Publisher: Jonathon Cape
I had this book on my shelf for a while and I wanted to read it before the end of the 2019 and I managed to sneak it in and I couldn’t be more pleased I did.
Synopsis: ‘On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous’ is a letter written 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 epicentre 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 the American moment, immersed as it is in addiction, violence and trauma, but undergirded by compassion and tenderness.
‘On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous’ is a letter written from a son to his mother. But for me, it felt like the son wrote this for himself to save his own soul, and the outcome is exquisite.
So first up, let’s talk about how beautifully this book was written. It’s gorgeous. It felt like I was reading a book of poetry. With lyrical prose and searing honesty it honestly left my speechless at points. I always like to be honest in my blog posts, so I have no shame in telling that it’s beauty made me cry on page 4. Yep, you read that correctly, page 4.
At times when reading this book, it felt like I shouldn’t have been. It felt to personal, to intimate, like I was reading someone’s diary. I mean all this in the best possible way, it’s a testament to the wonderful writing and storytelling of Ocean. It was like reading 242 pages of the characters soul. It really was beautiful. Yet it was also expansive, it felt like the story between mother and son, yet it’s somehow encapsulated so much more. Just genius. It also deals with the unpleasant side of their relationship. It details the abuse, the trauma. It shows him realise that she was more than just him mother, but a person who had been through her own trauma. But the overall out come for me, I felt was love.
There was a love story in this book, that was stunning. It was so real. It was the kind of lone that was never shared between anyone but Little Dog and his lover Trevor. It was full of first love and experimentation. What makes it outstanding is that it perfectly captures that feeling of first love. And because it was a gay love story, it was different. Different in the sense that the love was never said out loud, it was just felt. Although the characters didn’t even know it themselves. That’s what makes it wonderful. How Ocean captures this perfectly.
I can’t recommend this book enough. It was just beautiful and heartbreaking. Searingly honest and gorgeously written. It’s made both my top five queers reads of the year and my top ten overall reads of the year. Don’t let this one pass you by. It’s short but gloriously sweet.
It’s out now.
Until the next review