On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous
Poet Ocean Vuong’s debut novel is a shattering portrait of a family, a first love, and the redemptive power of storytelling.
“Alright 2019, this is the novel to beat. On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous is the rare novel that makes you experience reading in a slightly different way and shows you that, no matter how many books you’ve read, something new and uniquely beautiful can still be found. The novel takes the form of a letter written by the main character, Little Dog, to his mother — an immigrant from Vietnam who cannot read. The power of Vuong’s poetic writing shimmers with every paragraph, and each phrase is a carefully considered, emotional journey. Grappling with themes of identity, sexuality, addiction, violence, and finding your place in a world where you feel you don’t belong, this book already feels like a modern classic, destined to be read and talked about for years to come.”Caleb Masters, Bookmarks
“My words can't do justice to how beautiful the language is in this book. Listening to the author read it was so raw and engaging. This book was emotionally painful in a lot of parts but just touched me on so many levels. Definitely the best book that I've listened to (and read) so far this year.”Suzie, Tattered Cover
“Written as a letter from son to mother, Ocean Vuong's On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous is desolately beautiful. Each carefully crafted sentence builds upon the last, a momentum that carries you through a hundred pages before you remember to take a breath. Bleak, brilliant, it is the book other books will be compared to for years. Honestly, I would have been fine if it had been the last book I ever read.”Cody, Book Culture, @thecodystuart
On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous is a letter 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 epicenter 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 our American moment, immersed as we are in addiction, violence, and trauma, but undergirded by compassion and tenderness, On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous is as much about the power of telling one’s own story as it is about the obliterating silence of not being heard.
With stunning urgency and grace, Ocean Vuong writes of people caught between disparate worlds, and asks how we heal and rescue one another without forsaking who we are. The question of how to survive, and how to make of it a kind of joy, powers the most important debut novel of many years.