About The Book
A New York Times Book Review Editor’s Choice
2020 John Gardner Fiction Book Award Winner
Finalist for the 2021 John Dos Passos Prize for Literature
A Mental Floss and PopMatters Best Books of 2019
A Publishers Weekly Best Fiction Books of 2019
With brilliant sensitivity, The Sweetest Fruits circumnavigates the globe, introducing three unforgettable women, separated by geography and culture but connected by their love for the globetrotting Greek-Irish author Lafcadio Hearn, a.k.a. Koizumi Yakumo (1850–1904). An immigrant thrice over, now remembered as a keen cultural observer at best, and a purveyor of exotica at worst, Hearn was a remarkable but conflicted man who surrounded himself with women wanderers and storytellers. Excluded from history’s dominant patriarchal narratives but with their own powerful stories to tell, the women share their intrepid tales of crossing borders, languages, and social norms in pursuit of love, family, home, and belonging. This edition comes with a new afterword by the author.
Rosa Antonia Cassimati, a woman of the Ionian Islands, wills herself out of her father’s cloistered house, marries a British Army officer, and in 1852 comes to Ireland with her two-year-old son, Hearn. Alethea Foley, born into slavery on a Kentucky plantation, works as a boardinghouse cook in Cincinnati, Ohio, after the Civil War, where in 1872 she meets and later marries Hearn, a newspaper reporter. In Matsue, Japan, in 1891, Koizumi Setsu, a former samurai’s daughter, is introduced to the “New Foreign Teacher,” Hearn, and despite their lack of a common language, becomes the mother of his four children and his unsung literary collaborator.
More than just mothers and wives, these trailblazing traveler-explorers witness and offer a revealing, often contradictory picture of Hearn’s remarkable life, while also giving testimony to their own displaced existence and luminous will to live unbounded by gender, race, and the mores of their time. The Sweetest Fruits is a graceful excavation of their hidden narratives, which tell infinitely more than their love for one man.
About The Author
Born in Saigon, South Vietnam (now Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam), in 1968, Monique Truong came to the US as a refugee in 1975. She is based now in Brooklyn, New York. Her novels are the bestselling The Book of Salt (2003) and the award-winning Bitter in the Mouth (2010). Recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, U.S.-Japan Creative Artists Fellowship, and Hodder Fellowship, she has taught fiction wring at Columbia School of the Arts, Princeton, and Baruch College as the Sidney Harman writer-in-residence.
“A marvelous mixture of fact and imagination . . . Truong’s lush style is on gorgeous display in these pages, her imagery evoking hidden emotional depths. . . . set off by a rich brocade of social critiques—of slavery, colonization, and the repression of women. With great generosity and compassion, Truong explores the difference between writing and telling stories, with the question of who gets to speak and who remains silent.”—Diana Abu-Jaber, The Washington Post
“A delicate, impressionistic tale . . . Truong is exploring personal memory in all its creative and contradictory subjectivity. . . . Spurred by nostalgia, regret, longing, and anger, each woman examines her memories. . . . As Setsu observes, ‘to tell another’s story is to bring him to life,’ but here it’s the women who achieve that feat rather than the man who connected them.” —Priya Parmar, The New York Times Book Review
“[Mixing[ the extraordinary and the ordinary in an exhilarating new way. The Sweetest Fruits is brilliant and heartbreaking—I was transfixed.”—Gish Jen, author of Typical American
“Monique Truong has composed a sublime, many-voiced novel of voyage and reinvention. It will cross horizons, yet remain burrowed in your heart.”—Anthony Marra, author of A Constellation of Vital Phenomena
“Truong’s innovative narration gives us the stories of three incredible women right at the moments those stories are being repurposed or lost . . . In The Sweetest Fruits, even fragmented and forgotten stories offer sustenance. And in nourishing them it nourishes us.”—Leila Mansouri, The Believer
“Sweeping in scope and written in tight, precise language, it’s a read-into-the-night pick."—Marie Claire
“Intimate and sensuous yet majestic in scope, The Sweetest Fruits is a rapturous, glorious novel, extraordinarily alive to the world.”—Idra Novey, author of Those Who Knew
“Mesmerizing . . . In going beyond the knowable and guiding us through the imaginable, Truong takes the measure of the man through his women in coruscating prose.”—Jeff Kingston, Los Angeles Review of Books
“[A] sparkling, imaginative historical novel.”—The Philadelphia Enquirer (Fall 2019 Biggest Books)
“Monique Truong does what she does best, painting a vivid portrait of privilege, restlessness, and tenacity through the conflicting experiences of characters grappling with their senses of love, family, and home.”—Literary Hub (Most Anticipated Books of 2019)
“This novel is not Lafcadio Hearn’s, but rather it belongs to the women of his life, who again are living and breathing . . . Thanks to Truong’s perfect rendering of their voices, justice has finally spoken and those women’s voices find both life and peace.”—Publishers Weekly (Starred Review)
“The Sweetest Fruits leads readers [into] a sweeping narrative that poses questions about belonging, existence, and storytelling.”—The Millions (Most Anticipated: the Great Second-Half 2019 Book Preview)
“An absolutely brilliant intersection of fiction and history, politics and culture, love and loss.”—Hyphen Magazine
“[A] meditation on the vagaries of identity, the malleability of memory, and the question of whose stories are heard and whose are silenced.”—The Arts Fuse
“For anyone whose life feels overshadowed by a more powerful figure, or even just not centered at any point in life for reasons beyond one’s control, reading [The Sweetest Fruits] can be a vindicating experience.”—Rei Magosaki, Los Angeles Review of Books
“By giving readers a concert of voices, at last singing louder than Hearn’s biography and mythology, Truong asks us to ponder the ways those who are often ignored and marginalized might have their own rich, epic stories worth telling. In that sense, The Sweetest Fruits is a type of justice.”—Eric Nguyen, diaCRITICS
“As a moving, poignant novel it is magnificent; as a recontextualization of malestream history, it is long overdue.”—PopMatters
Title: The Sweetest Fruits: A Novel
Author: Monique Truong
Book Size: 140.0 mm x 216.0 mm