On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous is about Little Dog, his grandmother and mother. The novel is written as a letter from the son to mother, however it is never meant to be read by as she never learnt to read. The story wanders through their intertwined life stories. We see Lan, Little Dog’s grandmother, during her journey in life. She faces horrific times during the Vietnam War. Eventually she marries an American and has a child but she is never sure that the man she married is truly the father.
Hong or Rose, Little dog’s mother, suffers from mental health issues due to the trauma she witnessed during the Vietnam War. Her school was destroyed by American Napalm when she was just 5. She has never really learnt to read and write. She never really has any childhood at all. Later, she endures an abusive marriage and then goes on to become a single mother.
Little Dog recounts how rough his childhood was. Rose abuses Little Dog throughout his early life. Not only was he the product of an abusive home but he is also a refugee and gay. His life is full of hardship. Eventually he meets a boy in his teens and they fall in love but Little Dog isn’t Cinderella and this isn’t a fairy tale. Happy endings aren’t as easy to come by in real life.
I had heard loads about this book before I read it and one you read it, you realise why it is so loved. The story telling is raw and heartfelt. The emotion spills off the page and you won’t be surprised that I cried whilst reading it. It is another novel that achieves that truly wonderful goal of being both beautiful yet ugly at the same time.
It is unforgettable and haunting. It is astonishing to think that this is poet, Ocean Vuong’s debut as the narrative has been written with such tender execution. On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous is a stunning novel and future classic.