Pioneer Girl by Bich Minh Nguyen

Title: Pioneer Girl
Author: Bich Minh Nguyen

Genre: Fiction

Rating: 4.25 / 5



I saw this book at the university library when I was looking for a different book. I was drawn by the cover–I loved the artwork on it. I didn’t actually check it out because the jacket copy tied it so intimately to Little House on the Prairie, and I read one of those book as a kid, but I was like, how much do I really care about someone’s ties to that book? But the next time I was in the library it still seemed to be calling to me, so I went ahead and checked it out.

I’m really glad I did. I liked this book quite a bit. It’s a story narrated by a second-generation Vietnamese woman whose parents and grandparent fled the war in Vietnam to come to the US. She’s an academic–or trying to be; finishing her dissertation isn’t going so well, and she hasn’t had any job offers. So she moves back in with her mom and grandfather who run a small Vietnamese restaurant. When her brother comes back for a short visit, trying to find some mysterious money that he claims his mom owes them, she when she falls into this Little House storyline, discovering what might be connections of her family with theirs.

The book reads like a memoir and I was kind of having an Inception moment because she’s studying someone else’s memoir-ish writing, and reading their journals, and it made me think about my own journaling. The whole thing is pretty understated. It only has like 3.35 stars on Goodreads, which is kind of a low rating, and I wonder if that’s part of the reason why. It feels very realistic and doesn’t have any huge overarching plots or overtly satisfying character arcs, but because of that it felt very real and true-to-life for me. I did find it pretty engrossing, but in reality I guess it was kind of “slow” or “unexciting.” But I thought it worked really well; the tone, the pacing, the story, the characters, they all worked together well.

I found the book to be a pretty interesting snapshot. It’s also pretty short, at only 296 pages of largish print and largish line spacing. It was easy to read and felt very realistic. I could definitely go for more of this kind of book/story.

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