Lily Hoang and Parabola

One of my favorite authors wrote this about Lily Hoang’s début novel, Parabola:

“A work of proportion, grace, tenderness, ferocity. The easy intelligence and genuine audacity of Lily Hoang’s Parabola makes it a wonderful and disarming reading experience.” — Carole Maso

I think that is a very accurate description of the novel but, unfortunately, I don’t think it really tells you much about the novel. Your reaction to Parabola might be quite different from Maso’s, especially if you grew up in a Vietnamese family that escaped South-East Asia and migrated to the diaspora in the Pacific North-West.

Parabola slips effortlessly between different narrators, different genres, and more than a few revelations of numerology and the art of mathematics. Along the way there are dialogues, dramas, quizzes, essays, photographs (like W. G. Sebald), footnotes (like David Foster Wallace), graphic prose (like Raymond Federmann), mythology and an always engaging story of growing up with various relatives and neighbors in several homes over many years. The author even includes a variation on the early Christian myths including a riff on Lilith and the ever-present Lily. The text is hardly linear so the reader must always pay attention but I noticed that when complexity of the narrative is just about to have the reader blithering, the author drops into a traditional narrative which allows the reader to take a few deep breaths and mellow out before more complexity shows up (think of it as the slow climb of the roller coaster before tipping over the top of the hill and offering a scream to the gods.

You will meet Herr Doktor and Turk’s Cap, learn a lot about Vietnamese families, test your psychological skills, be fully versed in elementary numerology, dark matter, and the existence of solarians.

Excellent; challenging; recommended.

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