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Bitter in the mouth : a novel /

When a personal tragedy compels a young woman to return to Boiling Springs, North Carolina, she gets to know a mother she never knew and uncovers a startling story of a life, a family.

Main Author: Truong, Monique T. D.
Format: Book
Language: English
Published: New York : Random House, 2010
Edition: 1st ed.
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Review by Booklist Review

*Starred Review* Truong's absorbing second novel, following The Book of Salt (2003), introduces Linda Hammerick of Boiling Springs, North Carolina. Unable to connect with her emotionally remote mother, DeAnne, or her cruel grandmother, Iris, Linda favors the men in her family: her affectionate father, Thomas, and her sophisticated great-uncle, Harper. Linda's life is also shaped by the way spoken words evoke particular tastes for her, a condition known as synesthesia. Linda's own name brings forth the taste of mint, her best friend's the flavor of canned peaches, while her childhood crush evokes orange sherbet. Linda's synesthesia isn't the only thing that makes her an outsider, but Truong takes her time peeling back the layers of Linda's life, saving a major revelation for the halfway point in the novel. Linda eventually escapes Boiling Springs, leaving first for Yale and then for New York City, but a death in the family brings her back, and unexpectedly opens up a relationship she'd long since given up on. Truong is a gifted storyteller, and in this quietly powerful novel she has created a compelling and unique character.--Huntley, Kristine Copyright 2010 Booklist

From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

Linda Hammerick has a special yet burdensome gift-she experiences words as tastes. Linda's boyfriends' names, for example, remind her of orange sherbet and parsnips; her own name is mint-flavored. Depending on the speaker, listening, for Linda, can be delicious or distasteful. In the first part of the book, Linda interacts with her family: she dances with her eccentric uncle Baby Harper, whose sing-song voice limits her "tasting his words"; she faced off with her acerbic grandmother, Iris; deals with her adored father, Thomas, and her unsympathetic mother, Deanne, whose infatuation with a neighborhood boy leaves Linda vulnerable to his predatory advances. Woven into Linda's story is the history of her home state, North Carolina-slaveholding days, the first airplane flight, and local Indian lore. But when a sudden tragedy brings Linda back home from New York City, she finds answers to a life that has been made up of half-finished sentences, as the secret of her origins and the clandestine histories of those around her are revealed one by one. Truong's (Book of Salt) mesmerizing prose beautifully captures Linda's taste-saturated world, and her portrait of a broken family's secretive pockets and genuine moments of connection is affecting. (Aug) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Review by Library Journal Review

In a letter, the writer can be selective about what to include and what to omit. So it's telling that Linda and her best friend, Kelly, began their friendship by writing letters to each other as children and continue writing throughout teenage traumas and various separations into adulthood. As girls, neither fits in very well in Boiling Springs, NC-for one thing, Linda struggles with a condition that causes her to taste words. There are some delightful characters in Truong's second novel (after The Book of Salt). Unfortunately, it lacks the character development to carry the reader through distracting issues, such as implausible blind spots, disconnected tales drawn from North Carolina history, Linda's ethnicity suddenly becoming a major theme two-thirds of the way through the book, and an abrupt ending. Verdict Truong's engaging writing and complex character development almost overcome the deficiencies of this novel, but it is unlikely to touch readers as her debut novel did. [See Prepub Exploded, BookSmack!, 2/4/10.]-Gwen Vredevoogd, Marymount Univ., Arlington, VA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

(c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Review by Kirkus Book Review

After the dazzle of her debut (The Book of Salt, 2003), Truong returns with a coming-of-age narrative about a young girl who has always felt like an outsider in her small North Carolina town, not to mention within her own family.Narrator Linda, born in 1968, hears words as tastes. There is no obvious logic"Mother" becomes chocolatemilk, "tomorrow" becomes breakfastsausagebut the result makes for lovely juxtapositions. Adored by her lawyer father Thomas and her uncle Baby Harper, a librarian, Linda senses she is merely tolerated by her mother DeAnne. At seven, Linda begins what becomes a lifelong written snail-mail correspondence with best friend Kelly. After 11-year-old Linda is raped by the teenager who mows the family's lawn, she blames her mother for neither noticing nor protecting her. The rape interferes with Linda's budding romance with sensitive Wade, the object of Kelly's affection as well. In high school, previously overweight but precocious Kelly thins and dumbs down to join the popular crowd until she gets pregnant (father unnamed but obvious) and must leave town her senior year. Tomboyish Linda takes the school-valedictorian route, smoking cigarettes to block taste "incomings" that make academic concentration difficult. After her father's death when she is 17, Linda leaves for Yale. Flash forward to 1998. Now a lawyer whose fianc leaves her when cancer makes childbearing impossible, Linda discovers she has an actual neurological condition called synesthesia, which causes "involuntary mixing of the senses." She also finally acknowledges what readers have long suspected: by birth Linda is Vietnamese; she was adopted after her birth father and mother, whom Thomas had loved while in law school, if not more recently, died in a fire. As Linda learns about her secret history as well as her Uncle's sexual secrets and DeAnne's private heartache, she and DeAnne grow closer and learn to forgive, perhaps even love, one another.Truong remains a stunning wordsmith and a whiz at intellectual showmanship, but Linda's story tastes of artificial plot manipulation.]] Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.