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Publisher's Summary

Part puzzle, part revenge tale, part ghost story, this ingenious novel spins half a century of Vietnamese history and folklore into “a thrilling read, acrobatic and filled with verve” (The New York Times).

Finalist for the Center for Fiction’s First Novel Prize • One of the Best Books of the Year: The New York Times Book Review, NPR, Good Housekeeping, and Kirkus Reviews 

“Fiction as daring and accomplished as Violet Kupersmith’s first novel reignites my love of the form and its kaleidoscopic possibilities.” (David Mitchell, author of Cloud Atlas)

Two young women go missing decades apart. Both are fearless, both are lost. And both will have their revenge. 

1986: The teenage daughter of a wealthy Vietnamese family loses her way in an abandoned rubber plantation while fleeing her angry father and is forever changed. 

2011: A young, unhappy Vietnamese American woman 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. Alongside them, we meet a young boy who is sent to a boarding school for the métis children of French expatriates, just before Vietnam declares its independence from colonial rule; two Frenchmen who are trying to start a business with the Vietnam War on the horizon; and the employees of the Saigon Spirit Eradication Co., who find themselves investigating strange occurrences in a farmhouse on the edge of a forest. Each new character and timeline brings us one step closer to understanding what binds them all. 

Build Your House Around My Body takes us from colonial mansions to ramshackle zoos, from sweaty nightclubs to the jostling seats of motorbikes, from ex-pat flats to sizzling back-alley street carts. Spanning more than fifty years of Vietnamese history and barreling toward an unforgettable conclusion, this is a time-traveling, heart-pounding, border-crossing fever dream of a novel that will haunt you long after the last page.

©2021 Violet Kupersmith (P)2021 Random House Audio

Critic Reviews

“Violet Kupersmith’s eerie and electric debut novel...followed me into my days, refusing to release me.... This is a big, packed novel. Reading it provides a sensation not unlike riding on a motorbike overloaded with passengers and wares: It careens, it tilts and at times I wondered if it would reach its destination without a crash. But Kupersmith proves herself a fearless driver who revels in the daunting challenge she has set for herself. There are so many ways this novel could have lost its balance; instead, its too-much-ness makes for a thrilling read, acrobatic and filled with verve.” (New York Times)

“Haunting and unforgettable.” (Bust

“A sensual world that is familiar yet supernatural, populated with a dense web of time-traveling characters...dexterous, sensitive storytelling.” (Time

What listeners say about Build Your House Around My Body

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  • Overall
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Creative and refreshing

This book was unlike anything I’ve ever read. Between the Vietnamese cultural environment and the fascinating ghost stories, I found myself embroiled in a epic story that seamlessly wove the mystical and real worlds together into a shimmering fabric.

2 people found this helpful

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Epic, Horrifying & Mystical

As a writer, when I read something this clever, I know I must step up my game or retire my pen.

2 people found this helpful

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Perfection in storytelling!

I listened every free moment, all week-long. Now looking for other works by this author.

2 people found this helpful

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Extraordinary ghost story

This book is so well-crafted. It’s beautifully written, well-paced, and it’s genuinely scary. It’s the right balance of horror, mystery, drama, and folklore, with moments of real humor and levity. The characters and plot are compelling, and the setting is so strong that it feels like Vietnam is it’s own character. I can’t praise it enough. It’s basically perfect. I’d be so proud of myself if I were the author.

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Very dark story

I have no idea why I ordered this book. Maybe it was an accident. It is a dark and evil story. The demonic power of this story was absolutely creepy. I felt so oppressed as I listened. I kept hoping it would get better. After more than half of the book, I just stopped.

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Takes a lot of work

This supernatural story bounces back and forth haphazardly between historical points so it is somewhat difficult. Look for the lightbulb moments to help navigate.