The Dog Doesn’t Die

Book reviews & random thoughts

Does the Dog Die? A Brief Review of Bitter in the Mouth, by Monique Truong

It’s hard to review books with twists, because the twist limits the amount I can say about them. So … good book, engaging protagonist, interesting family dynamics, Truong can really write, and I recommend this book.

What I can tell you, more specifically: protagonist Linda recounts her childhood, with focus on her parents, her friend Kelly, and her great-uncle, “Baby” Harper. She provides a substantial amount of family history, and talks about her loss of innocence, her education, her career, her love life, and her estrangement from her mother. She also tries to explain her synesthesia.

I have mild synesthesia — numbers are, as Wikipedia puts it, “inherently colored,” and time has shape. But this is very subtle and in the background, and I seldom think about it. Linda, on the other hand, has lexical-gustatory synesthesia, in which words evoke tastes. And Linda’s synesthesia is so intense that it is a major distraction in her life, almost crippling. It’s interesting, but I also have to share some of the criticisms of the book, that Truong’s handling of dialogue in context of Linda’s “condition” makes it difficult to read. (We get it. You don’t need to beat us over the head with it by giving us the flavors associated with every word.)

I can’t reveal the twist, which comes about half-way through the book, though I began to suspect that “something was up” before then. All I can tell you is that it puts everything before that in a new context. I’m not sure how engaging the story would have been had we known everything up front, and I do feel like the book was missing a certain something that I can’t pinpoint. But I’m still recommending it. Bitter in the Mouth is definitely better than many of the other books on the market right now.

Representative quotes:

His mother was rarely home, though she didn’t have a job. Wade and I were both blind to what these midafternoon absences could mean.

In retrospect, the family realized that cat grooming was by far the most “normal” of the communities that this woman had thrown herself into.

As for animals, there are a few references to cats and cows, and that’s about it. So this novel is SAFE for animal lovers. Enjoy!

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January 26, 2011 - Posted by | Book Reviews, death of a parent, families, food | ,

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