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An extraordinarily compelling debut—ghost stories that grapple with the legacy of the Vietnam War
A beautiful young woman appears fully dressed in an overflowing bathtub at the Frangipani Hotel in Hanoi. A jaded teenage girl in Houston befriends an older Vietnamese gentleman she discovers naked behind a dumpster. A trucker in Saigon is asked to drive a dying young man home to his village. A plump Vietnamese-American teenager is sent to her elderly grandmother in Ho Chi Minh City to lose weight, only to be lured out of the house by the wafting aroma of freshly baked bread. In these evocative and always surprising stories, the supernatural coexists with the mundane lives of characters who struggle against the burdens of the past.
Based on traditional Vietnamese folk tales told to Kupersmith by her grandmother, these fantastical, chilling, and thoroughly contemporary stories are a boldly original exploration of Vietnamese culture, addressing both the immigrant experience and the lives of those who remained behind. Lurking in the background of them all is a larger ghost—that of the Vietnam War, whose legacy continues to haunt us.
Violet Kupersmith’s voice is an exciting addition to the landscape of American fiction. With tremendous depth and range, her stories transcend their genre to make a wholly original statement about the postwar experience.
Praise for The Frangipani Hotel
“[A] sparkling debut . . . These are stories written from wildly different perspectives, and yet the ghosts feel vitally familiar. There’s a lightness of touch to these stories, which are playful and wise, an astonishing feat for a young writer who graduated from Mount Holyoke College three years ago.”—Chicago Tribune
“In this auspicious volume, Kupersmith has reshaped and womanhandled traditional Vietnamese folktales that her grandmother told her into a wildly energetic, present-tense fusillade of short stories. . . . In perhaps the most pungent story here, a young woman who works the graveyard shift stocking shelves at Kwon’s World Grocery in suburban Houston befriends an old man she finds standing naked beside a Dumpster. His problem: He occasionally turns into a fourteen-foot python. ‘I am just a very old man who is sometimes a python,’ the man tells the woman. ‘But you, my child, are a creature far more complex.’ One might suspect that Kupersmith, who is working on her first novel, is that creature.”—Ben Dickinson, Elle
“Violet Kupersmith has woven together culture, tradition, family, and ghosts to create a series of short stories that are as fresh as they are mesmerizing. These stories will haunt you long after the last words have drifted off the page.”—Lisa See
“Surgically precise and feverishly imaginative.”—Téa Obreht, author of The Tiger’s Wife
“What is most haunting in Kupersmith’s nine multilayered pieces are not the specters, whose tales are revealed as stories within stories, but the lingering loss and disconnect endured by the still living. . . . [A] mature-beyond-her-years debut.”—Library Journal (starred review)
“These polished stories mark Kupersmith, who is in her early twenties, as one to watch.”—Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“Each of the stories is replete with characters both fabulous and ordinary, stories out of this world and firmly rooted in it. Each is meticulously told by a storyteller talented and wise beyond her years.”—Shelf Awareness