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Secrets

Like all of Butler’s other stories in A Good Scent From A Strange Mountain, “Mid-Autumn” focuses on the struggles of being Vietnamese American.  I really enjoyed this story because it allowed the reader to connect with the first person narrator at the very beginning.  The opening sentence makes the reader feel like they are being let in on a secret, and the first paragraph divulges so much personal information about the narrator and her emotions. You can tell that she is excited to have a child, that she prides herself in her Vietnamese heritage, and that she is adapting (however  she is not completely content with) life in America.

Butler’s attention to detail is something that I really admire because he focuses on details that are, on the surface, unimportant to the overall story. Using these intricate descriptions, he manages to slip in important information.  You can tell that the narrator misses Vietnam by reading about how she looks out her window.  You can also tell that she is excited for some parts of the American lifestyle, such as how happy she is that her child is not looked down upon because she is a girl.  There’s also a sense of loneliness that hovers over this story. She spends all of this time talking to her growing child and no time talking to anyone else.  She also says, “I am glad you are a girl. You will understand me even better.” (96) This sentence alone makes me feel bad for her because I feel like it displays her loneliness.

Another thing that I find admirable in this story is the use of flashbacks to explain relationship dynamics.  There also is no dialogue. Explaining something like this is useful and seen a lot in first person fiction writing, The exchange she has with the Bao, where they steal glances at one another, just really captures the emotion of a young, new crush.  Technically, she could describe that scene with the same words that I just used, but she goes into more specifics. She never overtly states that she is nervous, but her detailed description of that interaction shows her nerves. 

Also, all of these details show how important it is to her not to lose her Vietnamese culture and personal history. This is something that I think everyone can relate to.  I’m originally from Colorado, and everyone who is close to me knows this.  It’s important to me that people know and appreciate that part of my life, because it helps define me as an individual.  She is telling these stories so that she can create a close personal bond with her daughter (and simultaneously with the reader), and also so that her history and her happiness will be remembered and important to someone.  As I said earlier, automatically the reader feels like they are let in on a secret.  The secret of Bao turns out to be larger than expected since he is not the father of the child that this story is being told to.  This is what makes the story compelling.  This is a secret that she will take with her to her grave, and it is also a secret she desperately wants to share but can’t.

The Scientist – Coldplay

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