Newbery Honor author Thanhhà Lai has written another inviting novel for young readers. Mai is an ordinary 12-year-old who is looking forward to a summer of hanging out with her friends on the beach near her California home. But those plans are laid aside as Mai’s parents arrange for her to accompany her elderly grandmother “home” to Vietnam.
The journey’s purpose is to allow Mai’s grandmother to put to rest the unknowns surrounding her husband’s disappearance at the end of the Vietnam War decades earlier. Mai is a reluctant companion. But as Mai travels into this new world of family history, she is drawn into the language, customs, and people that are part of her heritage.
She listens and slowly finds herself protecting and caring for her grandmother and family in Vietnam. The Mai who returns at the end of the summer is a different person than the one who left.
Recommended reading for any young person but especially one who wonders about a heritage that has been left behind in another part of the world. Ages 8 and up. (HarperCollins)