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Banyan Moon by Thao Thai
Literary fiction

Banyan Moon

Debut

We love supporting debut authors. Congrats, Thao Thai, on your first book!

Early Release

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by Thao Thai

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Quick take

A dilapidated Florida mansion is more than a home in this multigenerational story of Vietnamese mothers and daughters.

Good to know

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_MultipleNarrators

    Multiple viewpoints

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_MamaDrama

    Mama drama

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_Immigration

    Immigration

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_Infidelity

    Infidelity

Synopsis

When Ann Tran gets the call that her fiercely beloved grandmother, Minh, has passed away, her life is already at a crossroads. In the years since she’s last seen Minh, Ann has built a seemingly perfect life—a beautiful lake house, a charming professor boyfriend, and invites to elegant parties that bubble over with champagne and good taste—but it all crumbles with one positive pregnancy test. With both her relationship and carefully planned future now in question, Ann returns home to Florida to face her estranged mother, Hương.

Back in Florida, Hương is simultaneously mourning her mother and resenting her for having the relationship with Ann that she never did. Then Ann and Hương learn that Minh has left them both the Banyan House, the crumbling old manor that was Ann’s childhood home, in all its strange, Gothic glory. Under the same roof for the first time in years, mother and daughter must face the simmering questions of their past and their uncertain futures, while trying to rebuild their relationship without the one person who’s always held them together.

Running parallel to this is Minh’s story, as she goes from a lovestruck teenager living in the shadow of the Vietnam War to a determined young mother immigrating to America in search of a better life for her children. And when Ann makes a shocking discovery in the Banyan House’s attic, long-buried secrets come to light as it becomes clear how decisions Minh made in her youth affected the rest of her life—and beyond.

Spanning decades and continents, from 1960s Vietnam to the wild swamplands of the Florida coast, Banyan Moon is a stunning and deeply moving story of mothers and daughters, the things we inherit, and the lives we choose to make out of that inheritance.

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Free sample

Get an early look from the first pages of Banyan Moon.
Banyan Moon

Chapter 1

1998

At first, there was no sign of the red tide, except for a tightness in their throats as they picked their way through dune grass that bristled against their legs. Three shades of brown, three sets of stalks, wild as the vegetation prowling along the coast. Ann, seven years old and dying to run down to the surf, reached down to scratch her ankle, but her mother, Hương, pulled her up, in a silent hurry, though there was no appointment to make, no work to rush to that day. A rare day of repose for the Tran women, and one that each measured with her own internal expectation, none of which overlapped. The morning was still, if portentous.

“You’re so slow, con,” Hương said. “Little lost turtle.”

It was hard to tell if she was teasing. Hương’s voice shouldered an edge, something related to sarcasm, though Ann will never be able to pinpoint exactly what, even years later when she is an adult.

Ann peered up at her mother until she saw the shadow of a smile. Really just a pull of Hương’s lips, drawn out like a concession. Ann let herself relax when her mother took her hand, smoothing her thumb over Ann’s knuckles.

As the three of them tracked through the shell-pebbled gray sand, their noses began to twitch, an unfamiliar push of sinuses against their skulls. The red tide hit them then. They coughed, then hid their coughs from each other, trying to smile against the thrash of a March wind, a product of the unseasonable cold front this time of year.

Ann’s grandmother Minh, Hương’s mother, led the way. Her gait was purposeful, but pinched. There was something dry and dangerous about her, like flint meeting flint. She wore wide-legged trousers in eggplant and a button-down shirt that covered her arms entirely, except for a sliver of wrist, shaded exactly like sun-warmed hay. All that morning, she couldn’t shake a faint prickle of dissatisfaction, though she could not name its source. It was her way to listen for signs.

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Why I love it

What does inheritance mean to you? The older I get the more this word haunts me. At the end of the day, what are we really left with? My parents, who didn’t have much, passed on their stories, which I have struggled to spin into gold, to help me make sense of my own identity and belonging on this pale blue dot.

Banyan Moon valiantly engages with the chameleonic nature of inheritance and the wounds and bonds forged across generations. Thao Thai’s seasoned debut is a beautiful, sweeping, multigenerational tale about three stubborn Vietnamese and Vietnamese American women. It is a tale as old as time—but perhaps new to you—about a daughter’s (Ann) inability to communicate with her estranged Vietnamese mother (Hương). That is, until one day, Ann’s matriarchal grandmother (Minh) passes away, and mother and daughter are forced to confront the past in order to untangle the inheritance Minh has left behind.

I thank Thao Thai for writing this book. Her words have stayed with me long after I finished it. Banyan Moon gives me hope that I can redefine “inheritance” one day, if not for myself, then for the next generation. It may very well do the same for you.

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Member ratings (5,226)

  • Kristin K.

    Morton Grove, IL

    ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ Thoughtful, intense in areas, yet rich in reality and folklore. I loved this book. My only wish is that secrets would have been revealed. How did Minh get the house in the first place?

  • Haley I.

    Orchard Lake, MI

    ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ makes you think about the parenting you provide and the kind you received. chapters authored by 3 different generations of women, trauma passed down, discovered secrets… I was hooked!

  • Caitlin R.

    Erie, PA

    My gosh I am speechless. Five, six stars ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ for this beautiful book inside and out. It’s almost like a Vietnamese version of Gilmore Girls. Wonderful story of mothers and daughters.

  • Sarah E.

    Pueblo West, CO

    I’m a sucker for an Asian female family’s story of generational trauma, love, loss, joy and strength and this book was the perfect amount of bittersweet leaving me perfectly content with the ending.

  • Blake M.

    Virginia Beach, VA

    wow, wow. read quickly. loved these ladies, was curious about their choices & relationships, surprised at some circumstances, was completely drawn in. won’t soon forget it. well done! beautiful cover.

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