“The Frangipani Hotel”

I picked this book up thinking it was a novel.  It turned out to be a collection of short stories by a new young writer, Violet Kupersmith.  All nine stories are set in post-war Vietnam or have a Vietnamese connection.  Kuperman’s mother was a former boat refugee from Vietnam, and she herself  received a Fulbright Fellowship to teach and research in the Mekong Delta.

The stories are based on traditional Vietnamese folktales related to the author by her grandmother.  Although all of the stories take place after the Vietnamese War, all of the characters were influenced by its events.  Each story has an eerie, unsettling quality.  Ordinarily, I would not be interested in this type of literature, but once I began to read a story, I had to finish it.  Superstition and the supernatural all play an important part in the unfolding of these tales.  A man who turns into a snake, a water nymph, who is always thirsty, resides at the Frangipani Hotel, a cat that bedevils a young woman, an overweight teenager who is bewitched by a food vendor, these are some of the subjects of this stories in this collection.

The book jacket states that Kupersmith is currently working on a novel.  I would be interested in reading this future work to see how she might expand on the characters and events that she created for this short story collection.






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