Underground Voices: 11/21/2014
eBook, 298 pages
Set in post-war Vietnam, The Demon Who Peddled Longing tells the terrible journey of a nineteen-year-old boy in search of the two brothers who are drifters and who raped and killed his cousin also his girl. It brings together the damned, the unfit, the brave, who succumb by their own doing to the call of fate. Yet their desire to survive and to face life again never dies, so that when someone like the boy who is psychologically damaged by his family tragedy, who no sooner gets his life together after being rescued by a fisherwoman than falls in love with an untouchable girl and finds his life in peril, takes his leave in the end, there is nothing left but a longing in the heart that goes with him.
The Demon who Peddled Longing by Khanh Ha is a very highly recommended, atmospheric novel that follows the journey of Nam, a nineteen year old young man who is is out looking to avenge his cousin's brutal rape and murder.
"It all starts with the eyes that see, and what’s seen then feeds the thought with longing." Location 1132
Throughout the The Demon who Peddled Longing Nam is usually just referred to as the boy. Set in post-war Vietnam, the narrative opens with a badly wounded boy being pulled from the river by a mysterious woman, who tends his wounds and puts him to work. Soon he realizes that she is wounded too, although not physically. As his journey continues, Nam meets a series of people, all trying to overcome complicated circumstances, all wounded and longing for something.
He tells people that he is from up north, heading south to find work on a fishing boat, but his quest takes several unexpected turns along the way. A small handful of people learn the real story of what Nam is searching for in his journey. He learns of another girl who was raped by two young men, brothers, and their description. He is certain that these two men are the ones who raped and murdered his cousin, Ni, and his suspicions are confirmed when he meets one of them, by chance, and sees the boy wearing tiger’s-claw-shaped jade pendant that his cousin always wore - until she was killed. The heirloom was supposed to keep demons away.
This is another exquisitely written novel with poetic prose and descriptions. Just as in Flesh, Khanh Ha will overload your senses with his sensually rich descriptions. Yet again he manages to capture beauty and longing as well as an ominous sense of foreboding. There is an almost dream-like quality to Nam's search and in his relationships to the people he encounters along the way. The Demon who Peddled Longing is such a beautifully written, descriptive novel that it's difficult to reconcile the elegance of the writing with the equally present determination Nam has to find and kill the men who murdered his cousin. Bravo, Khanh Ha; it's this juxtaposition and the dexterity in which it is presented that elevates The Demon who Peddled Longing to my highest recommendation.
(It must be noted that even though there is "Demon" in the title, this is not a supernatural novel about malignant spirits beyond the human kind.)
Disclosure: My Kindle edition was courtesy of Khanh Ha for review purposes.
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