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Publisher's Summary

With the epic sweep of Min Jin Lee's Pachinko and Yaa Gyasi's Homegoing and the lyrical beauty of Vaddey Ratner's In the Shadow of the Banyan, The Mountains Sing tells an enveloping, multigenerational tale of the Trần family, set against the backdrop of the Việt Nam War.

Trần Diệu Lan, who was born in 1920, was forced to flee her family farm with her six children during the Land Reform as the Communist government rose in the North. Years later in Hà Nội, her young granddaughter, Hương, comes of age as her parents and uncles head off down the Hồ Chí Minh Trail to fight in a conflict that tore not just her beloved country, but her family apart.

Vivid, gripping, and steeped in the language and traditions of Việt Nam, The Mountains Sing brings to life the human costs of this conflict from the point of view of the Vietnamese people themselves, while showing us the true power of kindness and hope. The Mountains Sing is celebrated Vietnamese poet Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai's first novel in English. 

©2020 Dreamscape Media, LLC (P)2020 Dreamscape Media, LLC

Featured Article: The Best Vietnam War Audiobooks, Fiction and Nonfiction


Over the past four decades, many people have written about the Vietnam War in an effort to make sense of the raging debates, the staggering death and destruction, and the lingering trauma. History is often complicated, biased, or missing key information, especially when it comes to war. Arm yourself with comprehensive knowledge of the conflict with our selection of titles detailing the Vietnam War, from fiction to nonfiction, personal stories to histories.

What listeners say about The Mountains Sing

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Incredible first English language novel

I adore this novel. The subject matter, the endurance, perseverance, redemption, triumphs and tribulations of a Vietnamese family from the 1930s to the near present, challenged me in ways I admire. Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai's talent as a poet shines through in this needed historical novel. The novel, which Quế Mai took 7 years (and a lifetime of experience) to write, evokes strong, heart wrenching emotions while beautifully supplying a context within which the two main characters (Trần Diệu Lan, the indomitable grandmother, and Hương, her granddaughter) navigate trial after trial to their country, their family and their lives. The book is a fast read given the well-developed characters and the pacing, but I found myself slowing down to relish the story.

I wish I could give this book 6 stars. It is that beautifully written and that important. I cared enough for the Trần family that serval vignettes brought literal tears to my eyes. I wanted to MEET these people and hug them and help them and know them even more.

To that end, I found myself wanting a sequel!! Hương in the present day world and her further journey toward self-realization? The parallel story of HươNg’s father? I just want MORE of these characters/family/writing. (This even prompted me to order one of Quế Mai’s books of poetry, The Secret of Hoa Sen.)

This wonderful novel, its family and its depiction of Vietnam will stay with me for a long time. The book has garnered copious rave reviews and awards, and all are so very well deserved.

Finally, a note on the audiobook (I purchased it as well, so I could continue with the story during my daily commute): Quyen Ngo takes Quế Mai’s poetic prose and renders it lyrical. I found myself wanting to revisit portions of the book I had already read so that I could savor Quyen’s narration. I hope she narrates more, because I would buy a book on the strength of her involvement alone.

In short: buy this book (in any format). I loved it so much, I’ve already bought multiple copies as gifts for others. It is THAT incredible.



73 people found this helpful

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I would give this book six stars if I could

I *rarely* read fiction. This caught my attention during a radio interview with the author and I am so grateful. What an amazingly captivating memoir. Many times I caught myself with my jaw dropped, my heart aching for the family and what they went through. To hear what the Tran family faced over generations was truly a needed eye opener for this American. I make it a point to try and see from different perspectives and this certainly helped me see through new eyes. My mind was so alive with imagery during this listen. I recommend it to anyone and everyone. As another reader said, I am putting off the final hour because I don't want it to end. I'm sure the next listen won't be this good.

39 people found this helpful

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Highly Recommend

I'm half-Vietnamese so this spoke to me. I grew up American with Viet influence from my mom, who didn't speak regularly of her life there or potentially omitted tougher memories.

This book helps me to better understand her culture, my cultural history, and her growing up under wartime circumstances.

I only listened to the book while driving and thus my mind sometimes wandered making it hard to follow when the voice changed from the granddaughter's to the grandmother's. But that's on me.

28 people found this helpful

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Well written and ultimately.. heartwarming!

This story was especially meaningful to me because I grew up in the Philippines and used to fly through Saigon on my way to high school in Singapore in the later 1960’s.
The story is well written and makes the history of Vietnam come to life. It also gives an understanding of the issues in, and effects of, the Vietnam war on that country. There are many parts that are hard to hear, but the triumph of loyalty and love to family and long time friends is heartwarming.

21 people found this helpful

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A woman’s tale of Vietnam

A heart wrenching saga of one woman’s family through three generations as Vietnam is invaded by Japan, then torn by Communism and destroyed by the French and American war with its horrific bombing and Agent Orange. We see how the politics of dogma and imperialism destroy lives. But it’s also a beautiful story of a mother who saves her children and risks everything to build a new life for them. The narrator performs each voice with warmth and clarity. Very satisfying storytelling.

18 people found this helpful

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Stunning.

Extraordinary. Beautiful. You won't regret reading it. My gratitude to the author and performer for their work.

14 people found this helpful

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Beautifully written and read!

The actor’s voice and authentic language skills. Written like poetry. I never knew much about Vietnam or it’s people. I actually have a friend who emigrated to the US from Vietnam.

12 people found this helpful

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Expansive. Poetic. Moving.

Simply presented, the whole of the tragedy the Vietnamese people endured. And they did endure.

10 people found this helpful

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Compelling, rich, satisfying

This is a beautiful, though painful, story. The characters are compelling, and there is enough to keep the reader interested in each story thread and timeline. It is woven together in a less than obvious way. The performance is excellebt, the narrator able to make the different characters distinct. It concludes without rushing to the end or to make it pretty. This is a satisfying listen.

9 people found this helpful

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Great Format

Lovely narration of a beautiful story. I listened to it quickly and found it very interesting.

7 people found this helpful

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  • Strayficshion
  • 10-27-20

A family's trauma in wartorn Vietnam

This is an extraordinary fictional account of a country's trauma brought about by war and division, spanning generations. Told through the narrative of one family and showing the impact of guilt and shame on recovery, this is a story run through with the real events that most of us only heard of from the American perspective. But for the people of Vietnam, there was another dreadful, painful, and culturally challenging side to that period that has gone untold until now.
That trauma is in every word, and if it leaves you feeling there is little joy to be had, it's helpful to recall that there was little joy trying to survive in times that set one half of the country against the other, that bombed whole villages, that divided families socially, geographically, and politically for years. The fictionalised telling of those events suggests that many will still be living with generational guilt and shame, and while the author brings the book to a satisfactory close, it's clear that this, like the narrative, is contained within the family. Healing can be a long road and it seems to me from this lesson in the history of a culture I had known little about, that many Vietnamese families may be walking that road for some while yet.
I have one issue, and it's one that only applies to the Audible version and may only apply to my personal preferences, and this is the American narration. In so many Audible productions I have come to expect a voice commensurate with that of the key players and much prefer it when that happens. I have heard Que Mai speak and read her work, and even in English her voice is like bells. When the narrator switches to speak the occasional line in Vietnamese, the difference in atmosphere that generates is palpable.

3 people found this helpful

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  • Emanuele Grisa
  • 05-03-21

Amazing book...

Similar to the books about the siciliana family Florio and the Bacardi saga in Cuba. If you lived those you'll absolutely love even more this one.

Cried so much.

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  • Bukola Akinyemi
  • 04-11-21

An emotional roller coaster

The Mountains Sing
By Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai

An emotional roller coaster ride, a great experience, an education in history about the Viet Nam War, The Great Hunger of 1945 and The Land Reform.

This book follows the experiences a family of six children that were hardworking and well to do. It shows what war and people can do to other people. How it can turn rich people to beggars.

It also shows the dedication of a mother and strong family love and loyalty.

This book is full of beautiful Vietnamese proverbs. I had the privilege of reading the hard copy while listening to the audio book, this helped with the name pronunciations and proverbs.

This is one of the books that makes you stop and ponder at various points. It brings up a variety of emotions, this is a book you will feel inside you.

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 12-02-20

Absolutely outstanding.

What a magnificent book! I hung onto every word in what is a brilliantly structured work of art. Probably the best book I have ever read.

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  • Jet
  • 05-30-20

Very moving and emotionally connected to it ...

The narrator made this story emotionally captivating, the story telling made me drawn to the story...

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  • Anonymous User
  • 05-14-21

Stunning in every way

This was an incredible listen. I loved this book so much!
Despite all of the hardships that the grandmother is forced to live through over the years, she perseveres with incredible strength and determination and leaves an empowered legacy for future generations to follow in her footsteps.
This book was educational, inspiring, empowering, uplifting, heartbreaking, endearing and full of wisdom.
After finishing this book, I googled the author and was so impressed to discover that she wrote this novel whilst still learning to speak English. She has done an incredible job writing this book. This isn't just an amazing story, it has also taught me so much that I didn't know about Vietnam. I honestly believe there is no greater gift a writer can give their readers than to educate and open minds whilst keeping them engaged in the story.
The narrator has a lovely soothing voice to listen to, so it was a pleasant listening experience. I did find the narration at the beginning a little flat but she got more expressive the further she went into the book. At times it was hard to tell if it was the grandmother or the granddaughter speaking, although after a while I figured it out. I am going to buy a hard copy of this so I can read it for myself now and absorb it on another level.
Thank you to the author for this moving story!

1 person found this helpful

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  • Anonymous User
  • 11-19-21

Highly recommended

Beautifully written, this novel is a great real life account of Vietnam, Vietnamese families and a vivid reminder of the many years of conflict and hardships. I am not overly familiar with Vietnam’s history but this book certainly reads very realistic.
I very much enjoyed the ‘real life’ story.
Credit also to the narrator, Quyen Ngo, who was very pleasant to listen to. Her character voices are very good and I loved the always correct pronunciation of Vietnamese words.
Highly recommended book.

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  • Elizabeth
  • 10-23-21

Brilliant Insight

I loved this heart reaching story. A real insight into Vietnam and a families journey through generations