The Frangipani Hotel

You might love it. You might not. In trying to tame this book review of The Frangipani Hotel by Violet Kupersmith, I have finally come to the conclusion that all I can say is that not every book is for every person, even if it is well written. It makes me think of a piece of advice given by editors to writers. They say when they ask a writer who their proposed book is written for, the answer is never, “For everybody.”

For some reason, I had not read short story collections for a while. When I saw this one available in the offered advanced reading selections, I thought I would enjoy a return to that early love. Additionally, it was appealing because the stories were based in Vietnam where my husband had a year’s tour of duty with the Army.

The difficult-to-describe stories are rooted in the culture and folklore of Vietnam either there or among people of Vietnamese descent in the United States. Emotions range from playful to disturbing, from light-hearted to somber, from insignificant to imperative. The characters inhabit this world and other worlds and shift from reality to the uncanny. The spirits seem as real as the people.

I found myself caught up in each story in turn, trying to anticipate its ending. I never did. When I finished, I could picture people who would enjoy the book and just as easily picture those who might not – even though the book is well written. This is what I have figured out. The book is for those who love a good short story that is a mix of O Henry’s final twisted endings with a heavy touch of The Twilight Zone, all set in Vietnam.

I feel sure we will hear from this debut author again.