cover image Daughters of the New Year

Daughters of the New Year

E.M. Tran. Hanover Square, $27.99 (314p) ISBN 978-1-335-42923-0

Tran debuts with a complex story involving many generations of a Vietnamese family’s women and their resilience. Xuan flees the fall of Saigon in 1975 for the U.S. with her mother and sister, losing her home, family wealth, and social standing. In the years after, she has three daughters and charts the family’s future with a complex zodiac almanac, as the trauma of dislocation and war manifests in her being ever ready for disaster. Now, in 2016, Trac, the eldest, is a successful lawyer, refusing to submit to her father’s plans and hiding her sexuality from her parents. Aspiring actress Nhi, the middle sister, wanders off the set of a reality show in Saigon and disappears. Trieu, the youngest, hopes to live up to her mother’s expectations by becoming a writer. Later, Xuan reveals how she and her mother managed to escape Saigon, and that tragic story sheds light on the difficulties faced by the three daughters. Tran further complicates the legacy with stories of the women’s ancestors who resisted third-century Chinese occupation and 19th-century French imperialism. Though the many threads can be hard to follow, and Tran’s decision to abandon Xuan’s daughters’ story lines will frustrate readers, she does an excellent job at conveying the cyclical nature of family and political history. Though a bit unwieldy, there are plenty of powerful moments. Agent: Eloy Bleifuss, Janklow & Nesbit Assoc. (Oct.)