Roots and Wings

A review of Listen Slowly by Thanhha Lai

Listen Slowly by Thanhha Lai, audio edition Harper Collins Audio, 2015 read by Lulu Lam

Mai, or Mia as she’s known to her friends, is a decided California Beach Girl.  She’s not really into learning about her family’s Viet Namese heritage.  Accompanying her father and grandmother to Viet Nam is not her idea of a fun summer vacation.  However, Om (Grandmother) must know what became of her husband in the last days of the Viet Nam War.  Mai’s father, a doctor, performs humanitarian work in the mountains, so Mai will be Om’s companion.  Nothing about Viet Nam is familiar; not the customs, not the heat, not the insects; certainly not the many, many distant relatives who take a keen interest in Mai, Om and their story.  In order to get Om the information she craves, Mai must put her own wants aside and learn to function within her new circumstances.  Listen Slowly is a compelling story of empathy and resilience.  Narrated by Lulu Lam, Mai’s voice is believable as a California tween and as she begins to understand her greater responsibility in Om’s journey.  Viet Namese phrases are used liberally throughout the story but are seamlessly translated as part of the story.

Very enjoyable.