‘On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous is a letter from a son to a mother who cannot read. Written when the speaker, Little Dog, is in his late twenties, the letter unearths a family’s history that began before he war born – a history whose epicentre is rooted in Vietnam – and serves as a doorway into parts of his life his mother has never known, all of it leading to an unforgettable revelation. At once a witness to the fraught yet undeniable love between a single mother and her son, it is also a brutally honest exploration of race, class and masculinity. Asking questions central to the American moment, immersed as it is in addiction, violence and trauma, but undergirded by compassion and tenderness, On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous is as much about the power of telling one’s own story as it is about the obliterating silence of not being heard.’
Oy….ok, I feel like I might get slated for this review but to hell with it…I really, really did not like this book. At all. And I really did want to, because I’d heard such great things about it.
Really the only thing I liked about this book was the title – and it is a lovely title, it sucked me in, and I expected a lot from the novel. For me though, it just didn’t deliver.
I found it impossible to get lost in this book – it never gripped me, and for a small book of less than 250 pages, I felt like I was reading it forever. I found myself looking forward to the end of it, because I just did not want to be reading it anymore. I don’t generally leave a book that I’ve started unfinished, but I came very close with this novel.
It is a book that deals with very real situations, very raw emotions, and explores some defining moments in the characters’ lives, but I just couldn’t make myself care about any of it. Maybe it was me – maybe I came across this book at the wrong time, or I was in the wrong frame of mind to read it. I’m not saying it was badly written, it just didn’t do it for me.
I found the writing to be very disjointed, with so many lines of overly poetic but ultimately useless text – it did nothing to move the story forward, and after a while I found it to be irritating and jarring to read.
There is no part of this novel that redeemed it for me – I didn’t like the characters, or the plot, or the writing style. I found it so hard to concentrate as I was reading it that even after reading a passage more than once, I was still lost as to what was happening in some points. It felt like a chore reading this. It felt a bit too ‘try hard’ for me – like the author was going out of his way to be poetic and artsy, and the book, in my opinion, suffered for it.
Like I said above, however – this is all just my opinion. I know there are people who have read this and absolutely adored it – it just wasn’t for me. It didn’t hit the mark for me. The great thing about books is that they can be interpreted so differently by each person who reads them, so this book is probably amazing to someone else.
I, however, will not be recommending it, and I’m sorry I wasted so much of my time with it.
I rate ‘On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous’ 1 out of 5 stars.