Book Review: Build Your House Around My Body
Author: Violet Kupersmith
Publisher: Penguin Random House
Rating: 5 stars
Read: August 2021
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.Penguin Random House
I just want to start off by saying that Build Your House Around My Body by Violet Kupersmith is the best book I’ve read in 2021 so far. It is a brilliant, symbolic exploration of colonialism, generational trauma, women’s bodies, and the history of place. And it’s all told as a ghost story.
I picked this book on a whim while browsing the LA County Library audiobook catalog on Libby. I had no idea what I was in for. I just knew I loved this book’s cover and the synopsis sounded intriguing. Build Your House Around My Body took me for on a wildly engaging and sometime nauseating journey full of ghosts, snakes, and subtle horror. I loved the story so much that I automatically purchased a physical copy after finishing the audiobook.
The story, put simply, follows Winnie, a Vietnamese-American woman who takes a job teaching English in Vietnam. She’s living with a distant family member, and feels disaffected with her teaching job and can’t connect with her co-workers. She begins to unravel and ultimately wants to disappear from her own body. Other characters, histories, and storylines weave in and out to tell a much darker story of the ghosts that can haunt a nation and follow us wherever we try to run. Bodies act as vessels, and sometimes they are not our own.
It can be hit or miss when an author tries to weave multiple storylines into one, and I thought Kupersmith did a wonderful job. Every character is connected, whether they know it or not. That knowledge is given to the reader, making the story that much more significant. Kupersmith is a fantastic writer, and I am looking forward to reading more of her work. I ordered myself a copy of her short story collection, The Frangipani Hotel, that I can’t wait to dive into. Like I said previously: Build Your House Around My Body is the best book I’ve read this year, hands down. You should read it too!
Should You Read It?
I absolutely love this book, but that doesn’t mean it’s for everyone. I highly recommend Build Your House Around My Body to anyone who loves:
– Ghost stories
– Literary fiction
– Intertwining storylines
– Explorations of heavy themes with lots of symbolism
CW: sexual assault, sexual harassment, rape, body horror, snakes (I’m being serious, there are scenes with very detailed descriptions of cobras)
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