The Sweetest Fruits by Monique Truong

Staff Pick

Ostensibly “about” Lafcadio Hearn (1850-1904), best-known for his travel writing and collections of Japanese ghost stories, Monique Truong’s The Sweetest Fruits (Viking, $26) is a beautifully written meditation on identity, memory, and storytelling. As Hearn’s mother, two wives, and a friend recount their experiences with a man each of them knew by a slightly different name—Patricio, Patrick, Yakumo, and Hearn—we get both four stories of one man, and stories of four different men. But more importantly, we get the stories of several remarkable women: Rosa Antonia Cassimati, Hearn’s mother, the descendent of faded Greek nobility; his first wife, Alethea Foley, a former slave who worked as a cook in Cincinnati boarding houses; and Koizumi Setsu, the daughter of a samurai whom he married in Japan; and, interspersed, excerpts from Elizabeth Bisland’s 1906 The Life and Letters of Lafcadio Hearn. Creating a distinctive voice for each woman, Truong’s meticulous and lyrical prose is full of telling historical details and rich with psychological insight. She’s a writer you want to reread and quote, from Rosa’s passionate ”I listened to my heart that day, and it was a fist pounding with anger” to Alethea’s description of Civil War coffee, brewed with roasted cornmeal, that “tastes like war” to one, “like freedom brewing” to another.

The Sweetest Fruits: A Novel Cover Image
ISBN: 9780735221017
Availability: Not On Our Shelves—Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Viking - September 3rd, 2019

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