So here’s what I’ve been thinking: if a story moved you in the first place, if its images struck you hard and its language rocked you gently, if, months later, it is still haunting you, then it’s time to share. This is how I feel about Kari Nguyen‘s “Star Anise,” posted on Fictionaut back in July.
This story begins on a boat, and from the first hot moment to the steamy pho that is being made throughout, the reader travels on a journey through the life of Lang, a woman who has come from the far shores of Vietnam to present day America. But it’s not only the story of Lang that is so beautiful, it is the way her story is alive in Kari Nguyen’s hands. There is a gentle rocking throughout (‘back and forth, back and forth‘), from innocent girlhood to her present day kitchen where she prepares the family pho, to the at times terrifying boat ride across the wide water to a new life on the other side of everything she knows. The noodle soup metaphor works its magic, threaded with great care and revealing just enough to keep the reader reading more, wanting more. You get small tastes of Lang’s life, glimpses of moments that are tender and frightful and wonderful. Nguyen moves lithely from dreamlike sequences to stark reality, and you get a real sense of Lang’s journey to the present. And, by the end, you gain an enormous feeling of satisfaction, because Ngyuen so gingerly places all the ingredients into the pot and stirs it just right.
Fictionaut Faves, a series in which Fictionaut members recommend stories on the site, is edited by Marcelle Heath, a fiction writer, freelance editor, and assistant editor for Luna Park. She lives in Portland, Oregon.