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The New York Times bestselling debut novel from the prize-winning prodigy

**THE NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER**
Brilliant, heartbreaking, tender, and highly original – poet Ocean Vuong's debut novel is a sweeping and shattering portrait of a family, and a testament to the redemptive power of storytelling

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 was 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.

With stunning urgency and grace, Ocean Vuong writes of people caught between disparate worlds, and asks how we heal and rescue one another without forsaking who we are. The question of how to survive, and how to make of it a kind of joy, powers the most important debut novel of many years.

Reviews

On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous is a masterpiece: a staggeringly beautiful book, full of wisdom and pain. It seems obvious now, though it didn’t before, that a young gay poet born in Saigon would write the Great American Novel. I really think it’s that. A huge gift to the world.

Max Porter

Vuong is surely a literary descendant of the author of Leaves of Grass. Emerging from the most marginalized circumstances, he has produced a lyrical work of self-discovery that’s shockingly intimate and insistently universal… Not so much briefly gorgeous as permanently stunning.

Ron Charles, Washington Post

Vuong is masterly at creating indelible, impressionistic images… This is some of the most moving writing I’ve read about two boys experimenting together… The tenderness of the prose feels like a triumph against a world hellbent on embittering the tenderhearted… the truths arrived at in this book are valuable precisely because they are steeped in feeling.

Justin Torres, New York Times

Ocean Vuong runs up against the limits of language—this book is addressed to a mother who cannot read it—and expands our sense of what literature can make visible, thinkable, felt across borders and generations and genres. This is a courageous, embodied inquiry into the tangle of colonial and personal histories. It is also a gorgeous argument for astonishment over irony—for the transformative possibilities of love.

Ben Lerner

On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous will be described – rightly – as luminous, shattering, urgent, necessary. But the word I keep circling back to is raw: that's how powerful the emotions here are, and how you'll feel after reading it – scoured down to bone. With a poet’s precision, Ocean Vuong examines whether putting words to one's experience can bridge wounds that span generations, and whether it’s ever possible to be truly heard by those we love most.

Celeste Ng

Vuong is a mightily gifted observer… Some lines have the almost hallucinatory exactness of his best poems… moving and rarely less than excellent… [On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous is] unleashed in every regard.

Dwight Garner, New York Times

Vuong as a writer is daring. He goes where the hurt is, creating a novel saturated with yearning and ache… He transforms the emotional, the visceral, the individual into the political in an unforgettable – indeed, gorgeous – novel.

Viet Thanh Nguyen, Time Magazine

One is not often given the chance to apply words like “brilliant” and “remarkable” to any novels, certainly not first novels. Thank you, Ocean Vuong, for this brilliant and remarkable first novel.

Michael Cunningham

Look out: here's a new, beautiful, battering ram of fiction. Vuong is rewriting what fiction is supposed to be and it is a privilege to watch.

Daisy Johnson

A bruised, breathtaking love letter never meant to be sent. A marvel.

Marlon James

This is one of the best novels I've ever read. Ocean Vuong is a master. This book is a masterpiece.

Tommy Orange

This book – gorgeous is right there in the title – finds incredible, aching beauty in the deep observation of love in many forms. Ocean Vuong’s debut novel contains all the power of his poetry, and I finished the book knowing that we are seeing only the very beginning of his truly magnificent talent.

Emma Straub

This is a stunning, sensuous novel that paints a portrait of a mother and her child struggling to work out how to live in a new land. There is fear and anger but the boy’s love for his mother – and for the world that surrounds him – sings off the page.

CRE, Monocle

[Vuong] mines his extraordinary family story with passion and beauty… Vuong writes wonderfully.

Tessa Hadley, Guardian

A candid meditation on masculinity, art, and the inescapable pull of opioids... Vuong peels apart phrases and reconfigures them into new, surprising ideas.

Elle

An epistolary masterpiece... Fearless, revelatory, extraordinary.

Library Journal (starred review)

Disarmingly frank, raw in subject matter but polished in style and language, On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous reveals the strengths and limitations of human connection and the importance of speaking your truth.

BookPage

[Vuong's] first foray into fiction is poetic in the deepest sense - not merely on the level of language, but in its structure and its intelligence... The result is an uncategorizable hybrid of what reads like memoir, bildungsroman, and book-length poem. More important than labels, though, is the novel's earnest and open-hearted belief in the necessity of stories and language for our survival. A raw and incandescently written foray into fiction by one of our most gifted poets.

Kirkus (starred review)

Casting a truly literary spell, Vuong's tale of language and origin, beauty and the power of story, is an enrapturing first novel.

Booklist (starred review)

Sometimes a writer comes along and stops your breath. I'm reading On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous and there is so little air moving through my body as I read. When writing is this good, who needs air?

Jacqueline Woodson, author of Red at the Bone

A poignant exploration of a family history, a celebration of maternal love and an unflinching examination of race and class. Vuong's novel is one of the most anticipated of the year.

Rupert Hawksley, National

[A] marvel of a book…[with] exquisite language.

Refinery29

One of American’s most noteworthy poets. His poems are beautiful and unpredictable, and the same goes for this, his debut novel… brilliantly raw.

Sharmaine Lovegrove, Sunday Times

On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous is one of the most anticipated novels of the year… a piece of autobiographical fiction that avoids all the traps of that genre… The book has a poetic density that is at once elliptical and unflinching in its gaze, a testimony to the endlessly complicated dynamics of damage.

Emma Brockes, Observer

Utterly captivating writing.

Anthony Cummins, Daily Mail

As an evocation of the tragic underside of American life, there’s no denying its [On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous] poetic power.

Anthony Gardner, Mail on Sunday

Vuong’s material is gripping even in precis… formally and stylistically ambitious… Vuong’s determination to see well-trodden ground afresh, with unremitting complexity, is extremely rare. Lay this book alongside Hanya Yanagihara’s A Little Life or Gabriel Tallent’s My Absolute Darling, and you are looking at the difference between adult literature and fairy story.

Claire Lowdon, Sunday Times

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Formats & editions

  • Hardback

    9781787331501

    June 4, 2019

    Jonathan Cape

    256 pages

    RRP $29.99

    Online retailers

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    Or

    Find your local bookstore at booksellers.org.au

  • EBook

    9781473564473

    June 20, 2019

    Vintage Digital

    256 pages

    Online retailers

    • Amazon Kindle AU
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    • Kobo Ebook
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