Three women tell the story of their time with Lafcadio Hearn, a globetrotting writer best known for his books about Meiji-era Japan. In their own unorthodox ways, these women are also intrepid travelers and explorers. Their accounts witness Hearn's remarkable life but also seek to witness their own existence and luminous will to live unbounded by gender, race, and the mores of their time.
... marvelous ... These adventures are illuminated with lovely, painstaking details that bring to vivid life the broader currents of history ... Truong’s lush style is on gorgeous display in these pages, her imagery evoking hidden emotional depths ... While the lives, loves and adventures of Lafcadio Hearn hold center stage in this novel, these are set off by a rich brocade of social critiques — of slavery, colonization and the repression of women. With great generosity and compassion, Truong explores the difference between writing and telling stories, with the question of who gets to speak and who remains silent.
Truong, whose family’s violent 1975 displacement from Vietnam when she was six makes her intimately familiar with peripatetic longing, stupendously imagined the life of Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas’ Vietnamese Parisian cook in her award-winning debut, The Book of Salt ... She displays similar ingenuity in her extraordinary new book (an eight-year effort) presenting Lafcadio Hearn through the four most important women in his life ... By reclaiming these exemplary women’s voices, Truong enhances history with illuminating herstory too long overlooked.
Containing minimal dialog, this work is rich in descriptive detail that some readers will enjoy, though others who prefer more character-driven interaction may be daunted. Nevertheless, those who follow the work through to the end will discover three fascinating women whose stories clarify the life of a man just as remarkable in his time.