Set in Tonkin (now northern Vietnam) at the turn of the 20th century, Flesh tells the story of a boy who witnesses the execution, by beheading, of his father, a notorious bandit, and sets out to recover his father’s head, and then find the man who betrayed his father to the authorities. A coming-of-age story of brutal self-awakening and also a tender love story, Flesh takes the reader into places, both dark and wonderful, in the human condition where allies are not always your friends, true love hurts, and your worst enemy can bring you the most solace.
Khanh Ha writes of the physical world with such sensuousness that he will make the reader’s heart ache. At the same time, though Flesh is his first novel, his knowledge of the human psyche is that of a fully mature writer. The title refers to temptation—the temptation of the flesh. But it refers equally to the obligations of kinship, the connections between us and those to whom we are related, even if we would choose not to be. My Thoughts:
Moody and almost dreamlike, Flesh is a luscious read. Khanh Ha does a fantastic job of describing the sights and smells of Tonkin. I'd never eaten the food described or smelled opium before but now I feel that I have. The sensory details made this book come alive for me.
I also enjoyed the bones of the story. It's a coming of age tale in a place and time that I couldn't imagine before now. The love story is gentle, believable and heartbreaking in the best way.
About the Author:
Khanh Ha was born in Hue, the former capital of Vietnam. During his teen years he began writing short stories which won him several awards in the Vietnamese adolescent magazines. He graduated from Ohio University with a bachelor’s degree in Journalism. He is at work on a new novel.