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The Mountains Sing

Runner-up for the 2021 Dayton Literary Peace Prize

Published by Oneworld Publications
Distributed by Simon & Schuster

About The Book


'An epic account of Viet Nam's painful 20th-century history, both vast in scope and intimate in its telling... Moving and riveting.' Viet Thanh Nguyen, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Sympathizer

Ha Noi, 1972. Hương and her grandmother, Trần Diệu Lan, cling to one another in their improvised shelter as American bombs fall around them. For Trần Diệu Lan, forced to flee the family farm with her six children decades earlier as the Communist government rose to power in the North, this experience is horribly familiar. Seen through the eyes of these two unforgettable women, The Mountains Sing captures their defiance and determination, hope and unexpected joy.

Vivid, gripping, and steeped in the language and traditions of Việt Nam, celebrated Vietnamese poet Nguyễn’s richly lyrical debut weaves between the lives of a grandmother and granddaughter to paint a unique picture of a country pushed to breaking point, and a family who refuse to give up.

Selected as a Best Book of 2020 by NB Magazine * BookBrowse * Buzz Magazine * NPR * Washington Independent Review of Books * Real Simple * She Reads * A Hindu's View * Thoughts from a Page

About The Author

Dr Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai is an award-winning Vietnamese poet and novelist. She is the author of eleven books of poetry, fiction and non-fiction. Her books in Vietnamese have received the 2010 Poetry of the Year Award from the Hanoi Writers Association, the Capital’s Literature & Arts Award, and First Prize in the Poetry Competition celebrating 1,000 Years of Hanoi. Her debut novel and first book in English, The Mountains Sing, is an International Bestseller, runner-up in the 2021 Dayton Literary Peace Prize, Winner of the 2020 BookBrowse Best Debut Award, Winner of the Blogger's Book Prize 2021, Winner of the 2021 International Book Awards, Winner of the 2021 PEN Oakland/Josephine Miles Literary Award, and Winner of the 2020 Lannan Literary Award Fellowship for "a work of exceptional quality" and for "contribution to peace and reconciliation". For more information, visit:

Product Details

  • Publisher: Oneworld Publications (August 20, 2020)
  • Length: 352 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781786079237

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Raves and Reviews

'[An] absorbing, stirring novel... Que Mai contains her saga with a poet's discipline, crafting spare and unsparing sentences, and uplifts it with a poet's antenna for beauty in the most desolate circumstances. She evokes the landscape hauntingly, as a site of loss so profound it assumes the quality of fable.'

– New York Times Book Review

'The Mountains Sing is an epic account of Vi?t Nam’s painful 20th century history, both vast in scope and intimate in its telling. Through the travails of one family, Nguy?n Phan Qu? Mai brings us close to the horrors of famine, war, and class struggle. But in this moving and riveting novel, she also shows us a post-war Vi?t Nam, a country of hope and renewal, home to a people who have never given up.'

– Viet Thanh Nguyen, Pulitzer Prizewinning author of The Sympathizer

'Devastating… From the French and Japanese occupations to the Indochina wars, The Great Hunger, land reform and the Vietnam War, it’s a story of resilience, determination, family and hope in a country blighted by pain.'

– Refinery29, 'Best New Books, August 2020'

'A sweeping story that positions Vietnamese life within the rich and luminous history of national epics like The Tale of Ki?u and The Iliad. Expansive in scope and feeling, The Mountains Sing is a feat of hope, an unflinchingly felt inquiry into the past, with the courageous storytelling of the present.'

– Ocean Vuong, author of On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous

'A Vietnamese poet conjures history and fate in a luminous tale that resonates across generations as one family grapples with the psychic residue of war.'

– O, The Oprah Magazine

'I learned so much that I needed to know about Vietnam… This book, first and foremost, is one of the most significant contributions to literature.'

– Natalie Jenner, author of The Jane Austen Society

'Inspired by the experiences of [Nguyen Phan Que Mai’s] own family, and backed up by extensive research, it's a testament to their endurance; a harrowing novel which finds hope in the author's faith in reconciliation and understanding.'

– Herald, Glasgow

'A luminous, complex family narrative... Que Mai [has] an astute and graceful ability to sustain contradictory truths about war, displacement, aesthetic representations, and human nature... The Mountains Sing affirms the individual’s right to think, read, and act according to a code of intuitive civility, borne out of Vietnam's fertile and compassionate cultural heritage.'


'A sweeping saga... Alternating between lyricism and blunt reality, Nguy?n Phan Qu? Mai gives us a vivid look at Vietnam from within.'

– People Magazine

'Nguyen Phan Que Mai’s sweeping tale proves on every page that despite war-time tragedies and numbing ugliness, the human desire to forgive and thrive soars as high as the mountains.'

– Thanhha Lai, National Book Award-winning author of Inside Out and Back Again

'A mesmerizing, devastating, searing and utterly authentic and deeply human novel. Cannot recommend highly enough!'

– Lynn Novick, co-producer of The Vietnam War documentary

'A glorious novel which sweeps across land, generations and hearts... A rare gem that I will never forget.' The Write Review

'A moving tribute to the author's own family, but also to the people of Vi?t Nam and I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it... If you enjoyed Pachinko by Min Jin Lee, How We Disappeared by Jing-Jing Lee, Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi, or The Island of Sea Women by Lisa See, this is undoubtedly one for you.' Reads & Reveries

'The Mountains Sing is an epic novel weaving together stories of four generations of the fictional Tran family...The novel is poetic, absorbing and illustrative of the enormous sacrifices of the Vietnamese people, particularly the women.' The Green Left, Australia

'Epic in scope, and a celebration of the human spirit, The Mountains Sing is a story you won't soon forget.' PopSugar, '25 of the Best New Books to Add to Your Reading List This Spring'

'A panoramic epic... Like the work of Duong Thu Huong, who deserves the Nobel one day, this book brings to life a crucial part of Vietnamese history from within. Your heart will not leave this book untouched.' Literary Hub

'Not since 2017's Pachinko have readers been given a family saga as sumptuous and compelling as The Mountains Sing.' PopMatters, 'Best Fiction Books of 2020'

'[A] lyrical, sweeping debut novel... Nguyen brilliantly explores the boundary between what a writer shares with the world and what remains between family. This brilliant, unsparing love letter to Vietnam will move readers.' Publishers Weekly, starred review

'An engrossing story of family, adversity, war, loss, and triumph... Recalling Min Jin Lee and Lisa See, Nguyen displays a lush and captivating storyteller’s gift as she effortlessly transports readers to another world, leaving them wishing for more.' Library Journal, starred review

'This multigenerational tale chronicles the Trâ`n family as a Vietnamese woman visits Hanoi and reflects on the life lessons shared by her late grandmother.' USA Today, 'Five Books Not to Miss'

'A historical novel that portrays Vietnamese strength in the face of adversity... I came away at the end of the book with a new appreciation for the courage and resourcefulness of the Vietnamese.' Washington Independent Review of Books

'Told with poetic economy and intensity, [The Mountains Sing] is dominated by the formidable Dieu Lan and her granddaughter Huong, who find ways to pass on stories from the past.' Sydney Morning Herald

'Widely published in Vietnamese, poet, nonfiction writer, and translator Nguy?n Phan Qu? Mai’s first novel in English balances the unrelenting devastation of war with redemptive moments of surprising humanity.' Booklist

'In The Mountains Sing, Nguyen Phan Que Mai has found a true and clear voice in English that is rich and compelling the way only those who come to English as a second language can sometimes manage.' Bruce Weigl, author of bestselling memoir The Circle of Hanh

'A beautiful evocation of a lost world.' Paris Review of Books

'Beautiful, heartbreaking and utterly essential.' Saigoneer Bookshelf

'Beautifully and lyrically written... The Mountains Sing is historical fiction at its finest – it highlights the impact and cost of the events that led up to the Vietnam War from the Vietnamese people's perspective.' She Reads, 'Best Historical Fiction Books of 2020'

'The power of this outstanding novel lies in the gradual revelations of just how many personal challenges this family has had to deal with... Hauntingly beautiful.' NB magazine

'A compelling and challenging novel that should be read as an attempt to recognise both the presence of the past and its profound effect on the formation of individual and national identity.' Irish Times

'A vast, epic historical novel set against the backdrop of the Viet Nam conflict through the eyes of the people themselves.'

– Ms. Magazine

'Qu? Mai's first novel in English is lyrical and at once heart-wrenching and hopeful.' NPR, Best Books of 2020

'Lyrical, wrenching, sometimes painful to read, but ultimately glorious in affirming the resilience of the human spirit.' Julia Alvarez, author of Afterlife

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