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"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.
A New York Times Book Review Editor's Choice
Winner of the Binghamton Center for Writers’ John Gardner Fiction Prize
"A marvelous mixture of fact and imagination.... Truong’s lush style is on gorgeous display in these pages, her imagery evoking hidden emotional depths.... While the lives, loves and adventures of Lafcadio Hearn hold center stage in this novel, these are set off by a rich brocade of social critiques - of slavery, colonization and the repression of women. With great generosity and compassion, Truong explores the difference between writing and telling stories, with the question of who gets to speak and who remains silent." (Diana Abu-Jaber, The Washington Post)
"A delicate, impressionistic tale.... Truong is exploring personal memory in all its creative and contradictory subjectivity.... [The Sweetest Fruits] is propelled not by action but by the retrospective piecing together that happens once a relationship is over. Spurred by nostalgia, regret, longing and anger, each woman examines her memories.... As Setsu observes, 'to tell another’s story is to bring him to life,' but here it’s the women who achieve that feat rather than the man who connected them." (Priya Parmar, The New York Times Book Review)
"I've been addicted to Truong's writing ever since her debut, The Book of Salt, a work of historical fiction incorporating real people that felt - unlike much of that genre - lush, invigorating, and real. Her third novel fictionalizes Greek-Irish writer Lafcadio Hearn but through the eyes of only his mother and his two wives - one a freed American slave, the other his Japanese translator." (Boris Kachka, New York Magazine)