Cà Phê Đen by Sebastian Thach: Authentic Voice

Yearning to attract its expatriates home, Vietnam has officially changed Ho Chi Minh City to Saigon once again. Vietnam hopes to harness the talents, education, and creativity that four and a half million Việt Kiều accumulated over the years.

Architect and real estate developer Jasper left Vietnam more than forty years ago and was eager to return to his beloved Saigon, where he was born and raised, to bring green and sustainable architecture to its inhabitants.

Follow him into three countries as he escapes from Vietnam after the war as a boat refugee to find a better future in the US, only to later land in Sweden.

Cà Phê Đen is a light-hearted story, with occasional gut-wrenching heartbreaks, of a mother’s unconditional love and sacrifice, a tale of love and betrayal, and a love reunited after half a century of separation.

In Cà Phê Đen by Sebastian Thach, we are given a novel that has an authentic voice, one that explores what it means to be an expatriate of Vietnam and an immigrant in the United States. The story explores the history of Vietnam through the emotional point of view of one man and his life.

In the novel, the author does an amazingly compelling job of reflecting on the importance of the name Saigon and what it meant when Saigon was taken over by Communist forces. He also explores how his character Jasper feels returning to Vietnam and the importance of his work in creating something to contribute to the growth of the city. I really appreciate the personal history between Jasper’s aunt and his own emotional conflict with his boyfriend, Anders. 

One of the elements that did pull me out of the story was the tendency to drop a lot of history of the area within the dialogue. It was also harder to connect to the character at those times or feel the emotions of Jasper. But I love the ending and the relationships that are developed in the second half of the book.

If you like novels about expatriates returning home with lgbtq characters, this one has such an authentic voice and charming character. The rich history of Vietnam is intriguing and the colorful sayings which help you learn a lot about the culture. It is a long history that is worth exploring. Not only will you learn about Vietnam but the observations of Sweden and the United States are equally engrossing. 

4 out of 5 coffees. 

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