Readers will find something pleasurably atmospheric about the Banyan House ... Strongest when exploring the unique blend of contempt and fury that can exist between mothers and daughters. It is quietly devastating to witness Ann’s battle to forgive a guilt-ridden Huong. Thai renders these feelings with nuance and a familiarity that is sometimes difficult to bear ... Urges readers to consider whether it is best for some truths to remain hidden — whether deceit can ultimately be an act of love.
The confluence of voices is both a strength and weakness of this poetic, often radiant novel. Each chapter is narrated by a different woman ... The sympathetic attunement among these women is perhaps intentional...but sustained across several chapters, it occasionally erodes their singularity ... Thai often blends the mundane and the magical, from the book’s title, derived from a Vietnamese fable, to descriptions that liken characters to witches. Yet, for all its nods to mystical realms, the book is strongest when it latches onto the visceral beauty of the everyday ... The book certainly has the heft of a story that’s been gestating for years — an intimate account of one family’s planting of roots in American soil and the sacrifices great and small that each member makes along the way.