An extraordinarily compelling debut—ghost stories that grapple with the legacy of the Vietnam War A beautiful young woman appears fully dressed in an overflowing bathtub at the Frangipani Hotel in Hanoi. A jaded teenage girl in Houston befriends an older Vietnamese gentleman she discovers naked behind a dumpster. A trucker in Saigon is asked to drive a dying young man home to his village. A plump Vietnamese-American teenager is sent to her elderly grandmother in Ho Chi Minh City to lose weight, only to be lured out of the house by the wafting aroma of freshly baked bread. In these evocative and always surprising stories, the supernatural coexists with the mundane lives of characters who struggle against the burdens of the past.
Based on traditional Vietnamese folk tales told to Kupersmith by her grandmother, these fantastical, chilling, and thoroughly contemporary stories are a boldly original exploration of Vietnamese culture, addressing both the immigrant experience and the lives of those who remained behind. Lurking in the background of them all is a larger ghost—that of the Vietnam War, whose legacy continues to haunt us.
Violet Kupersmith’s voice is an exciting addition to the landscape of American fiction. With tremendous depth and range, her stories transcend their genre to make a wholly original statement about the postwar experience.
Praise for The Frangipani Hotel
“[A] subversively clever debut collection . . . These stories—playful, angry, at times legitimately scary—demonstrate a subtlety of purpose that belies [Kupersmith’s] youth.”—The New York Times Book Review “Magical, beautiful, modern stories, all based on traditional Vietnamese folktales, [The Frangipani Hotel] invokes the ghosts of the land that was left behind.”—San Francisco Chronicle “[A] sparkling debut . . . playful and wise, an astonishing feat for a young writer.”—Chicago Tribune
“A series of short stories that are as fresh as they are mesmerizing, The Frangipani Hotel will haunt you long after the last words have drifted off the page.”—Lisa See
“Auspicious . . . wildly energetic.”—Elle “Enthralling stories . . . teeming with detail and personality.”—Asian Review of Books “Chilling and lovely . . . Kupersmith has combined traditional storytelling with a post-modern sense of anxiety and darkness, and the result is captivating.”—Bookreporter “The stories shimmer with life. . . . Kupersmith [is] one to watch.”—Publishers Weekly (starred review)
About the Author
Violet Kupersmith graduated from Mount Holyoke College in 2011 and then spent a year in Vietnam on a Fulbright teaching fellowship. She is currently at work on a novel.
“[A] subversively clever debut collection . . . These stories—playful, angry, at times legitimately scary—demonstrate a subtlety of purpose that belies [Kupersmith’s] youth.”—The New York Times Book Review
“A series of magical, beautiful, modern stories, all based on traditional Vietnamese folktales, this is the product of a great writer who invokes the ghosts of the land that was left behind.”—San Francisco Chronicle “[A] sparkling debut. The stories in this collection by Violet Kupersmith fuse traditional Vietnamese ghost stories with the ghost of the Vietnam War and update them as they play out for those who remained in the country and those who fled. . . . These are stories written from wildly different perspectives, and yet the ghosts feel vitally familiar. There’s a lightness of touch to these stories, which are playful and wise, an astonishing feat for a young writer who graduated from Mount Holyoke College three years ago.”—Chicago Tribune (editor’s choice)
“Violet Kupersmith has woven together culture, tradition, family, and ghosts to create a series of short stories that are as fresh as they are mesmerizing. These stories will haunt you long after the last words have drifted off the page.”—Lisa See
“In this auspicious volume, Kupersmith has reshaped and womanhandled traditional Vietnamese folktales that her grandmother told her into a wildly energetic, present-tense fusillade of short stories. . . . In perhaps the most pungent story here, a young woman who works the graveyard shift stocking shelves at Kwon’s World Grocery in suburban Houston befriends an old man she finds standing naked beside a Dumpster. His problem: He occasionally turns into a fourteen-foot python. ‘I am just a very old man who is sometimes a python,’ the man tells the woman. ‘But you, my child, are a creature far more complex.’ One might suspect that Kupersmith, who is working on her first novel, is that creature.”—Ben Dickinson, Elle
“[A] compelling brand of magic realism . . . enthralling stories . . . a collection teeming with detail and personality.”—Asian Review of Books
“Chilling and lovely . . . Kupersmith has combined traditional storytelling with a post-modern sense of anxiety and darkness, and the result is captivating.”—Bookreporter
“The stories shimmer with life. The heat and tumult of Vietnam’s cities are palpable, and the awed wonderment of humans confronted with supernatural occurrences is artfully conveyed. These polished stories mark Kupersmith, who is in her early twenties, as one to watch.”—Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“Warning: [The Frangipani Hotel] might haunt you. . . . Young Kupersmith, not yet twenty-five years old, seems to be channeling the literary spirit of Isak Dinesen in these Vietnamese tales as they morphed into completely up-to-date short stories. . . . Kupersmith has the same ability as Dinesen’s to turn ordinary events into magical dreamworlds, sometimes even before the reader notices the shift. . . . These short stories originated in tales her Vietnamese grandmother told Kupersmith throughout her childhood. They take place now, in Vietnam and in Houston, with cellphones, low-level Texas hoodlums and drowned water sprites coexisting with ghosts returning from times long past. The naked seventy-year-old man hiding behind a Houston convenience store worries about a frightening metamorphosis he undergoes with increasing frequency.”—The Buffalo News “Surgically precise and feverishly imaginative.”—Téa Obreht, author of The Tiger’s Wife
“What is most haunting in Kupersmith’s nine multilayered pieces are not the specters, whose tales are revealed as stories within stories, but the lingering loss and disconnect endured by the still living. . . . [A] mature-beyond-her-years debut.”—Library Journal (starred review)
“Each of the stories is replete with characters both fabulous and ordinary, stories out of this world and firmly rooted in it. Each is meticulously told by a storyteller talented and wise beyond her years.”—Shelf Awareness
“This first collection introduces a writer to watch and belongs in any library serving a short story readership.”—Booklist
“In this impressive debut, Violet Kupersmith displays a remarkable gift for voice and setting. Using history and horror, mystery and imagination, she has created this vivid collection of haunted and haunting stories. Highly recommended.”—Karen Joy Fowler, author of We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves and The Jane Austen Book Club
“These stories start out humbly, workaday, and would be happy to go on that way but are surprised by the entry of some unearthly demon. Then our great joy is to watch them try to carry on with their simple, daily world, in spite of the transfiguring radiance of the supernatural. Kupersmith is more than a powerful writer: She’s already been admitted into the secret circle of Isak Dinesen and Isaac Babel and Sylvia Townsend Warner. She’s a true storyteller, and a demon herself.”—George Dawes Green, founder of The Moth and author of The Caveman’s Valentine and Ravens
“Everyone will talk about how young, how mature and talented beyond her years Violet Kupersmith is, but in reading these stories of ghosts both ancestral and infernal, you’ll become convinced Kupersmith herself is of the spirit world—transcending time, nationality, gender, and place. Rarely does a writer of any age conjure a book so deftly funny and yet so deadly serious. Read it, remember it, and then breathlessly await her next one.”—Sheri Holman, author of Witches on the Road Tonight and The Dress Lodger
“Violet Kupersmith writes about both the Old World and the New World with an understanding beyond her years. These stories weave beautifully together to give us a rich tapestry of human history, and present an exciting new voice.”—Yiyun Li, author of Kinder Than Solitude “The haunted world of The Frangipani Hotel teems with sensuous and exuberant life. Terror and wonder walk hand in hand. There are ghosts in the air (and in the lake), but there’s nothing insubstantial about them. These ghosts are boisterous and malign, driven by powerful passions even they don’t understand. Whether they issue from the war-torn past, the insatiable appetite of nature, or the sinister terrain of the human unconscious is anybody’s guess. One thing is certain: They’re not going away until the reader too is entirely entranced and captivated.”—Valerie Martin, author of The Ghost of the Mary Celeste, Mary Reilly, and Property, winner of the Orange Prize