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A Pho Love Story–kitchens in conflict

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Goodreads

A Pho Love Story

by Loan Le

Perfect for Valentine’s Day—or any day for that matter! Loan Le’s A Pho Love Story, written with a teenage or young adult audience in mind, is a modern day Vietnamese-American “Romeo and Juliet” tale. Báo and Linh, seniors in high school, do not understand the family conflict that has gone on for as long as they can remember. Their families’ restaurants, serving authentic Vietnamese dishes, are situated on opposites sides of the same street. The parents, however, clearly dislike each other. In fact, the children are not allowed to talk or play together. Is this conflict a result of competition for economic survival or is there a deeper reason going back to their days in Vietnam and the dangerous boat trips to safety and freedom? Cultural norms for showing respect to their parents prevent both Báo and Linh from questioning them about the deeply felt social boundaries in the neighborhood.

Báo and Linh are sympathetic characters; Báo is trying to decide on a career and  Linh wants to make her passion and talent for painting acceptable to her parents. The Vietnamese flavor throughout is authentic and reflective of the author’s family heritage. Because both families own restaurants, food plays an important role. Vietnamese culture is also prominent in descriptions of the parents and the family dynamics. As someone familiar with Spanish, French, and Latin, I can usually read expressions from those languages when added to the text for authenticity, but the phrases included in this book sent me scurrying to a translation app. Most meanings could be divined from context, but I really like to know the exact meaning of words, whether in English or another language, for a deeper reading experience. A Pho Love Story was enriching in that respect.

I am sure most readers can predict the outcome, but not how the characters will arrive there. The journey is bumpy, but fun, as the author weaves literary magic within the plot. The story is told by the teenagers from alternating points of view by chapter, a technique which works really well in this book. There are several interesting  adults who act as mentors to the pair without telling them what to do. This would be an engaging read for teenagers and young adults.

I would like to extend my thanks to NetGalley and to Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 4/5

Category: Teen and Young Adult

Notes: There is some bad language sprinkled throughout the book.

Publication:   February 9, 2021—Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing

Memorable Lines:

My parents—my mom, really—has now perfected the art of non-encounters; knowing their schedule right down to when they close and when they leave. In a way, their schedule has become ours. We’re background characters in each other’s stories.

She trusts Viet to do his job, as well as make sure I do mine. The concept’s not perfect: We’re the same age, and letting him watch over me makes as much sense as letting a horse and a pony run the show. But somehow it works.

I like the writer’s style. One person can say something that’s been said before but in a way that’s completely different; their unique experiences and personality infuse their words, their sentences.


7 Comments

  1. Sounds like a great book for teenagers. Great review thank you.

    Like

  2. Carla says:

    Cultural norms often cause conflicts with the second generation. This sounds like a good story using that as a plotline. I don’t think I have read a book highlighting Vietnamese culture except for historical fiction. Great review Linda.

    Liked by 1 person

    • lghiggins says:

      I don’t think I have either. I was blessed to teach a Vietnamese first grader many years ago. His mother, who didn’t speak English, thanked me in the only way she knew how–with some fresh, delicious egg rolls. They were the best I had ever tasted. Reading this book took me back to that amazing surprise.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. What a great way for teenagers to learn about cultural contrasts, and I bet the alternating points of view by chapter makes it a really interesting read~

    Liked by 1 person

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