Her: The Flame Tree
Winner of the Gival Press Novel Award - 2022.
Literary fiction with historical elements of Vietnam.
“In this almost folkloric saga of a royal eunuch, his adopted daughter and the tragedies and triumphs of love in their lives from the days of the emperor’s court to the war with America, Khanh Ha takes us deeply into the heart of traditional Vietnam in a tale told in such lushly poetic, descriptive language that it immerses the reader deeply and sensually into the gorgeousness of the land, the texture and taste of food, and the complex humanity of the characters. Her: The Flame Tree is an intricately woven, seductively fascinating story of family, sacrifice, loyalty and redeeming love in the face of heart-breaking loss that breathtakingly weaves the lives of individuals we come to know and care about into the saga of Vietnamese—and American—history.”
—Wayne Karlin, author of Memorial Days
“Early in Khanh Ha’s latest novel Her: The Flame Tree, the author describes a book made of delicate leaves of gold. Such a volume would be ideal to record this shimmering and often tender tale of love, loss, and memory.”
—Steve Evans, author of The Marriage of True Minds
“Khanh Ha writes at the level of a master artist. The essence of Her: The Flame Tree is a story sure to touch a reader’s heart, and the enveloping prose is nothing short of brilliance, brimming with beautiful imagery and lyrical passages. Once again, Khanh Ha delivers.”
—Chris Riley, author of The Sinking of the Angie Piper and The Broken Pines
“Her: The Flame Tree is a beautiful novel, rich with evocations of natural setting in coastal Vietnam; remembered action going back more than a hundred years; and characters both extraordinary and poignantly ordinary, developed by layer upon layer of stories.
The primary narrator, the Vietnamese-American Minh ‘as a young writer looking for material,’ follows the thread from a magazine article about a centenarian head eunuch (d. 1968) to his adopted daughter Miss Phượng. From her wavering memory, steadied by places and objects they visit, Minh elicits opening stories the old man told about his life that also evoke his perspective on the colorful ceremonies of a royal dynasty as it dissolved and his asexual love for an eventually high-ranking concubine Ân-Phi.
These lead into Miss Phượng’s stories of her own life: her upbringing by her loving adoptive father as a Vietnamese-French orphan, not knowing her origins; the arrival of another young American in the late 1960s when she is a young woman, in search of the origins of his deceased lover, also Vietnamese-French; and his and Phượng’s discovery of the girls’ shared parenthood, as they fall into a love that’s also for the dead twin.
The fairy-tale-like separation in infancy of twin girls and their reunification at least in story by a ruby phoenix pendant is grounded by this family of lives painfully conditioned before birth by the gender customs of a culture and the decades of colonial and post-colonial war around them. These also belong to the long-suppressed stories Minh presents so they might not be lost.”
—Elizabeth Harris, judge and author of Mayhem: Three Lives of a Woman
“Ha evokes a visceral image of Vietnam . . . . the country can hold both flocks of parrots ‘preening their plumage and eating in a frenzy that the ground was a canvas of colors—blue, green and red’ and ‘shreds of flesh and clothing . . . skewered on branches.’ A vivid study of a country’s fraught history and how its people struggled to make sense of it.”
Award winning author Khanh Ha is a nine-time Pushcart nominee, finalist for The Ohio State University Fiction Collection Prize, Mary McCarthy Prize, Many Voices Project, Prairie Schooner Book Prize, The University of New Orleans Press Lab Prize, and The Santa Fe Writers Project. He is the recipient of the Sand Hills Prize for Best Fiction, The Robert Watson Literary Prize in Fiction, The Orison Anthology Award for Fiction, The James Knudsen Prize for Fiction, The C&R Press Fiction Prize, The EastOver Fiction Prize, The Blackwater Press Fiction Prize, and The Gival Press Novel Award.