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The Sweetest Fruits

A Novel
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Description

Named a Most Anticipated Book of 2019 by Lit Hub and The Millions

"A sublime, many-voiced novel of voyage and reinvention" (Anthony Marra)

"[Truong] imagines the extraordinary lives of three women who loved an extraordinary man [and] creates distinct, engaging voices for these women" (Kirkus Reviews)

A Greek woman tells of how she willed herself out of her father's cloistered house, married an Irish officer in the British Army, and came to Ireland with her two-year-old son in 1852, only to be forced to leave without him soon after. An African-American woman, born into slavery on a Kentucky plantation, makes her way to Cincinnati after the Civil War to work as a boarding-house cook, where in 1872 she meets and marries an up-and-coming newspaper reporter. In Matsue, Japan, in 1891, a former samurai's daughter is introduced to a newly arrived English teacher, and becomes the mother of his four children and his unsung literary collaborator.

The lives of writers can often best be understood through the eyes of those who nurtured them and made their work possible. In The Sweetest Fruits, these three women tell the story of their time with Lafcadio Hearn, a globetrotting writer best known for his books about Meiji-era Japan. In their own unorthodox ways, these women are also intrepid travelers and explorers. Their accounts witness Hearn's remarkable life but also seek to witness their own existence and luminous will to live unbounded by gender, race, and the mores of their time. Each is a gifted storyteller with her own precise reason for sharing her story, and together their voices offer a revealing, often contradictory portrait of Hearn. With brilliant sensitivity and an unstinting eye, Truong illuminates the women's tenacity and their struggles in a novel that circumnavigates the globe in the search for love, family, home, and belonging.

©2019 Monique Truong (P)2019 Penguin Audio

Critiques

"In The Sweetest Fruits, Monique Truong does what she does best, painting a vivid portrait of privilege, restlessness, and tenacity through the conflicting experiences of characters grappling with their senses of love, family, and home." (Kevin Chau, Lit Hub, Most Anticipated Books of 2019)

"In this globetrotting, luminous novel, the three narrators offer an honest, contradictory portrait of the man they knew that highlights the social expectations of their gender, race, and class for their time. Like [Truong's] first novel, The Book of SaltThe Sweetest Fruits leads readers [into] a sweeping narrative that poses questions about belonging, existence, and storytelling." (Kate Gavino, The Millions, Most Anticipated: The Great Second-Half 2019 Book Preview)

"[A] remarkable novel about love, the power of memory, and betrayal.... Truong is dazzling on the sentence level, and she inhabits each of these three women brilliantly. Truong’s command of voice and historical knowledge brings the stories of these remarkable women to life." (Publishers Weekly starred review)

"Extraordinary...by reclaiming these exemplary women’s voices, Truong enhances history with illuminating herstory too long overlooked." (Booklist starred review)

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