Wandering Souls by Cecile Pin
Date published: March 21, 2023
Date finished; April 17, 2023
Some subjects are just hard to write about. When an author can create a story that tackles that subject head-on but with compassion and hope, they create a novel that must be read. Cecile Pin does just that thing with her debut novel.
Anh and her younger brothers, Minh and Thanh, are sent ahead of the rest of their family to make their way from Vietnam to their Uncle in the United States as boat people, with the understanding that the rest of their family will join them only a few weeks later. When tragedy strikes, and Anh and her siblings are left on their own, they end up not in the United States but in Thatcher’s England.
Pin does not shy away from the refugee experience but is also fair. While it is a grueling journey, she shows us both the trials and the unexpected blessings that Anh, now having to raise her brother, faces. We also see this small family’s struggles as they try to assimilate into a new country they are sent to, without any relatives on whom to rely.
The real heart of this novel is generational trauma and how it continues until it is consciously treated. Pin uses some very interesting devices here. A reader may be confused while reading and wondering how everything fits together, but it all comes into focus at the end in a powerful way.
My only criticism comes at the end of the book. The Covid-19 pandemic and the resulting anti-Asian bigotry are mentioned, almost in passing. I felt that this was a strange element to add without addressing. I wished Pin had either elaborated on it (this book is less than 250 pages, so she had the room to expand on it) or left it out. This is a small complaint and probably only an issue because it happens in the end.
Cecile Pin’s debut novel is a jewel that belongs in anyone’s library. Wandering Souls has a place on my keeper shelf and I can’t wait to see what Pin brings us next.
One thought on “Book Review: Wandering Souls by Cecile Pin”
I loved most of the book but dragged through the last part. I should revisit it.