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Though complex, subtle, and rich in history and myth, Violet Kupersmith's Build Your House Around My Body makes an instantly potent impression. Her writing is at once measured and vivid, infused with the elemental power of Vietnamese folklore, and with the histories, fates and desires of its protagonists. Following the lives of two fearless women who both went missing (though decades apart - one in 1986, the other in 2011), and who both seek revenge, Build Your House Around My Body is hauntingly poetic, playful, and a puzzle, of sorts. A multi-layered Russian doll of a story with magic realist elements - ghosts, time travel, snake monsters. Indeed, the whole novel might be described as a coiled serpent that spirals and springs when you least expect it. Despite their very different backgrounds, the women are bound by the past, and by ancestors and ghosts. It’s a mystery, a mythic epic, a slippery history that defies classification, and I loved it.
1986: The teenage daughter of a wealthy Vietnamese family gets lost in an abandoned rubber plantation while fleeing her angry father, and is forever changed by the experience. 2011: Twenty-five years later, a young, unhappy American named Winnie disappears from her new home in Saigon without a trace. The fates of these two women are inescapably linked, bound together by past generations, by ghosts and ancestors, by the history of possessed bodies and possessed lands. Barrelling through the sweaty nightclubs of Saigon to ramshackle zoos, colonial mansions and haunted forests, Violet Kupersmith's heart-pounding fever dream of a novel deftly combines Vietnamese history and folklore to create an immersive, playful, utterly unforgettable debut.