BookDragon Books for the Multi-Culti Reader

The Frangipani Hotel by Violet Kupersmith [in Library Journal]

The Frangipani Hotel*STARRED REVIEW
What is most haunting in Kupersmith’s nine multi-layered pieces are not the specters, whose tales are revealed as stories within stories, but the lingering loss and disconnect endured by the still living. With an American father and a Vietnamese “former boat refugee” mother, the author channels her bicultural history to create contemporary, post-Vietnam War glimpses of reclamation and reinvention on both sides of East and West.

In “Skin and Bones,” two Houston sisters visit their Ho Chi Minh City grandmother “to rediscover their roots” but more realistically because “Vietnam Was Fat Camp.” In “Guests,” a pair of American expat lovers have diverging expectations. A dying youth tries to steal another’s body in “Little Brother,” and an insistent knock at the door demands retribution 40 years after the war in “One-Finger.” In “Reception,” set in the titular Frangipani Hotel, the clerk’s family’s past overlaps with the coming new brand of the ugly American.

Verdict: The wunderkind moniker will soon enough be attached to the 1989-born Kupersmith, who wrote most of these stories as a Mt. Holyoke undergraduate. Her mature-beyond-her-years debut deserves equal shelf space with other spare, provocative collections, such as Paul Yoon’s Once the Shore, Lauren Groff’s Delicate Edible Birds, and Yoko Ogawa’s Revenge.

Review: “Fiction,” Library Journal, January 1, 2014

Readers: Adult

Published: 2014


  • Gomez

    In this impressive debut, Violet Kupersmith displays a remarkable gift for voice and setting. Using history and horror, mystery and imagination, she has created this vivid collection of haunted and haunting stories.

  • Ming Leer

    Yes! YES!!! read this because of your recommendation. the book is enthralling. each story was unexpected and satisfying. I marvel at how these stories with ghosts contained cultural, immigrant and psychological insights. whoa

    • YES indeed. She’s remarkable, that child, no? Such an imagination AND facility of storytelling and gorgeous language. Imagine what she will do in five years … in 10!! That much talent is truly awe-inspiring.

      Okay, so NO NO spoilers … but I couldn’t help but be reminded of a couple of the stories here when I read <em>We Were Liars, which is apparently THE buzzed about book this summer. I won’t say WHICH stories, of course, because I’ve hinted enough anyway … The BD post is coming this week, but I couldn’t dare even suggest at the ending shocker everyone is talking about — in hush-hush secretive tones, of course. I was surprised enough sort-of okay, but could think of quite a few APA titles (most recently Fangipani) that used a similar schtick, let’s say …

      You could read Liars in less than two hours, I’m sure! It’s fast, and you won’t be able to stop once you start anyway. Your daughter might even be fascinated with it, although it’s on the older end of MG and definitely more YA. If/when you read, DOOOO let me know if you figure out the shocker … and what you think overall, of course. I think as APA readers, we’re also going to have a different takeaway …

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