When Thi Bui gives birth to her first child, she is suddenly faced with the deeper meaning of parenthood and finds herself reflecting on her relationship with her parents. She obsesses over her imperfect relationship with her parents, but now begins to realize the context of their lives outside of her own. In 1978, when Bui was only 3 years old, she and her family escaped Vietnam, making a harrowing journey to Malaysia by boat; prior to that point, they made the most of living in a war-torn country that was rapidly falling into a communist regime. The bulk of this graphic memoir occurs as flashback and the information she has learned of her parents’ lives. Bui’s parents were raised under quite different circumstances, highlighting the differences between North and South Vietnam. As Bui pieces together her parents’ experiences, she begins to better understand the people they became later in life as adults and as parents. Covering history, family issues, and the refugee experience, and creating an evocative landscape out of a black, white, and dusky orange palette, The Best We Could Do is a striking debut by Thi Bui, and I certainly look forward to reading more of her work in the future.
Reviewed by: Lindsay on March 16, 2017
Number of Pages: 327