Book Report: Mãn

Man Book Cover

What’s The Buzz?: Kim Thúy is a Vietnamese-Canadian author who has already packed a serious literary punch with her debut novel, Ru, which was both Giller Prize-nominated and a winner of the French Language Governor General’s Literary Award. After that knockout of a book, anticipation has been building for Thúy‘s latest offering, Mãn, which recently hit the bookshelves.

What’s The Plot?: Like with Thúy‘s first novel, Mãn is told through a series of interconnected scenes. On the surface that sounds like any other book, but each ‘scene’ is typically no longer than a page in this slim novel, and the transitions to a new chunk of content are pretty veiled as you drift through the life of our title character, Mãn, who starts by recounting her life growing up in Vietnam. Mãn has three mothers – the woman who actually gave birth to her, the nun that collected her from a garden, and the woman she called Maman, a spy who also helps find Mãn a husband; a lonely Vietnamese-Canadian man living in Quebec, where Mãn soon joins him. It is there that Mãn begins to learn what she’s capable of – as a mother, as a chef working in her husband’s restaurant, and as an independent woman. So much so that when a married chef with Paris crosses her path, Mãn finds herself quickly and deeply falling in lust, experiencing, perhaps for the first time, feelings she’s never had before.

I’ve Read Ru, Will I Like This Book?: Absolutely. In both Ru and Mãn, Thúy has established a unique voice – part prose, part poetry – and a unique format that certainly links the two of them. In both cases, the books straddle two worlds: the childhoods of the main characters growing up in war-torn, impoverished Vietnam, and the beginnings of a new life in Calgary. One thing I found particularly unique in Mãn was the double-edged immigrant experience; Mãn is not only arriving to a new nation, she’s residing in a unique sub-culture of Canada as a whole, by living in Montreal (although it is established earlier on that Mãn knows French).

Is This Book For Foodies?: To a degree yes – Mãn is being posited as a story of how love and food are inextricably intertwined. I don’t disagree with that assessment; even in Mãn’s childhood, she reflects on the unique delicacies in her home country, like shaved coconut over a palm leaf, or the iced bananas her mother sells. Once Mãn arrives in Montreal and begins working at her husbands restaurant, the references to food increase as Mãn stretches her culinary wings and begins concocting recipes based on emotions and memories from her past. Foodies will definitely get more of an appreciation of those components of the book (including the food Mãn samples while traveling abroad).

Who Should Read This Book?: If you’re a fan of Canadian literary fiction, then Mãn is one of those books you’ll want to pick up. It’s got plenty of buzz surrounding it and could once again be a contender come awards season. Beyond that, it does have some appeal for both foodies and those interested in reading about the immigrant experience. The book is relatively short (under 150 pages) and with some scenes as short as a paragraph, pretty quick to get through, so even a busy mom should be able to take a few moments out of her day to appreciate this lovely little well-written novel.

Mãn is available from booksellers nationwide as of last week, for $25. The subject matter in this case even makes it a fitting pick for say, a dinner party hostess gift with a bit of unique flair. As always, I’m pleased to be giving away a copy of Mãn to a lucky winner. Here’s how to enter for your chance to win:

1) Tell me in the comments below by September 20, 2014 – why are you interested in reading Mãn?

2) Entries are limited to one per person / per email address / per household (or more if you score bonus entries). A random draw will be conducted on or around September 21, 2014 to select the winner(s), who will have 48 hours to respond before another winner is chosen in their place.

3) Entries are limited to Canadians that have reached the age of majority in their province. Quebec is not eligible for this promotion.

4) Bonus Entry: Follow Random House of Canada on Twitter, tag them and me (@cdngiftguide) in a Tweet about why you want to eat up this lovely book! Post a link to your Tweet below in a separate comment to earn yourself an extra entry into the draw.

5) Bonus Entry #2: Add this book to your to-read list on GoodReads, and leave a link back to the page it’s on below to earn yourself another bonus entry.


35 Responses to “Book Report: Mãn”
  1. Sheelagh Russell-Brown says:

    This book sounds very intriguing to me!

  2. Sheelagh Russell-Brown says:

    Sheelagh RusselBrown ‏@SheelaghRussel1 10s

    Kim Thuy’s Man is another book about the immigrant experience I want to read

  3. Adrielle Parlee says:

    I would love to read this book! I have been trying this year to read diverse books and books by Canadian authors. This sounds right up my alley!

  4. Elaan says:

    I would love to read Man because I love Canadian literature, and this sounds quite fascinating!

  5. Elaan says:

  6. Joan G. says:

    I’m a big fan of Canadian writers and I think this book would be an interesting read.

  7. Jocelyn H says:

    I absolutely loved Kim Thuy’s book, Ru. It was beautiful and poetic. I’m really looking forward to reading her new novel, Man.

    Also, if you ever have the chance to see her do a reading or interview in person, do it. She is very funny and has a large fun personality.

  8. Jocelyn H says:

  9. Holly says:

    Sounds interesting.

  10. I would love to read Kim Thuy’s new novel – it sounds very interesting!

  11. Susan says:

    I just saw The Hundred Foot Journey last evening and loved it. Man sounds as if it has some parallels to this story, but with a different voice and experience. I haven’t read Thuy’s other book, but would love to explore this authors works.

  12. cookie3 says:

    Loved Ru & eagerly anticipating Man

  13. Pam says:

    I love reading books about different cultures

  14. janicour says:

    Examining the intricate relationship between love and food. I am sure we can all relate to this book. Canadian connection makes it even more intriging.

  15. beewbedard says:

    your review makes the book so really good

  16. beewbedard says:

  17. Susan T. says:

    I have heard a lot of great buzz about this book and I love novels that involve food!

  18. Amy Lovell says:

    I am interested in reading it because the book sounds quite fascinating and I love to read!

  19. Amy Lovell says:

  20. GARRY S says:


  21. Annie D says:

    I try to read a wide range of Canadian literature and this book sounds very interesting. I’m going to read Ru first and then Man.

  22. Annie D says:

  23. diane says:

    This novel sounds so interesting and I would love to read it.

  24. dabrowne says:

    sounds like a great read

  25. lorna says:

    I loved Ru, can’t wait to read Man

  26. CLC says:

    I’d love to support Canadian novelists and I ‘m a foodie!

  27. aarone m says:

    This book looks really interesting and I would love to have it!

  28. Angela Mitchell says:

    I’d love to read this book but I know someone I’d love to give this to. My aunt is a huge fan of books about food and especially Canadian books about food so this would be a treat for her!

  29. Erica says:

    The cover looks cool (yes, I judge books by the cover). I also need a cool new book to read, and the fact that the author is Canadian makes this book all the more intriguing.

  30. Lori P says:

    I enjoy travel and international cuisine, so this book would provide a wonderful opportunity to enjoy both vicariously, while reading this acclaimed book!

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