Bich Minh Nguyen
Summary (from Goodreads): From an award-winning author, a novel about a Vietnamese American family’s ties to The Little House on the Prairie
Jobless with a PhD, Lee Lien returns home to her Chicago suburb from grad school, only to find herself contending with issues she’s evaded since college. But when her brother disappears, he leaves behind an object from their mother’s Vietnam past that stirs up a forgotten childhood dream: a gold-leaf brooch, abandoned by an American reporter in Saigon back in 1965, that might be an heirloom belonging to Laura Ingalls Wilder. As Lee explores the tenuous facts of this connection, she unearths more than expected—a trail of clues and enticements that lead her from the dusty stacks of library archives to hilarious prairie life reenactments and ultimately to San Francisco, where her findings will transform strangers’ lives as well as her own.
A dazzling literary mystery about the true origins of a time-tested classic, Pioneer Girl is also the deeply moving tale of a second-generation Vietnamese daughter, the parents she struggles to honor, the missing brother she is expected to bring home—even as her discoveries yield dramatic insights that will free her to live her own life to its full potential.
Review: This book is a bizarre combination of a second generation Vietnamese American daughter trying to figure out how she fits into her family and the tale of Laura Ingalls Wilder's daughter Rose as she helped her mother write the Little House on the Prairie series. I didn't exactly buy into why Lee became so easily obsessed with Rose Wilder Lane, and I found her behavior at times to be a little unrealistic (would a woman with a PhD in literature steal from a museum?). It was interesting to learn about the dynamics of Vietnamese families, and the descriptions of Vietnamese food made me hungry to try some. I came away from the novel disappointed to learn that Laura didn't actually write the books, or at least she didn't write them by herself. And the ending seemed to tie some things up too neatly while leaving others completely open ended.
Rating: 3.5 stars