cover image The Frangipani Hotel

The Frangipani Hotel

Violet Kupersmith. Random/Spiegel & Grau, $25 (240p) ISBN 978-0-8129-9331-8

In the stories in Kupersmith’s fiction debut, which are based on Vietnamese folktales, the modern and ancient collide, as do the real world and the spirit world. The stories are cast with a diverse assortment of characters, alive and dead. In “Reception,” set in the titular hotel in Hanoi, the front desk clerk, Phi, encounters an enigmatic woman whom he sets up on a fateful date with a visiting American businessman. In “Turning Back,” Phuong Nguyen, an aimless Vietnamese-American girl, finds a naked, elderly Vietnamese man behind the convenience store in Houston where she works as a clerk, and discovers to her horror that the man can (and does) take the form of a giant python. The collection’s least spirit-ridden story, “Guests,” features Mia, a young American woman who works at the U.S. Consulate in Ho Chi Minh City; her job involves processing visa requests from people who claim to have been fathered by U.S. servicemen during the Vietnam War. The stories shimmer with life. The heat and tumult of Vietnam’s cities are palpable, and the awed wonderment of humans confronted with supernatural occurrences is artfully conveyed. These polished stories mark Kupersmith, who is in her early 20s, as one to watch. (Apr.)