Just let him go. These are the words Ky Tran will forever regret. The words she spoke when her parents called to ask if they should let her younger brother Denny out to celebrate his high school graduation with friends. That night, Denny—optimistic, guileless, brilliant Denny—is brutally murdered inside a busy restaurant in the Sydney suburb of Cabramatta, a refugee enclave facing violent crime, an indifferent police force, and the worst heroin epidemic in Australian history.
Returning home to Cabramatta for the funeral, Ky learns that the police are stumped by Denny’s case: a dozen people were at Lucky 8 restaurant when Denny died, but each of the bystanders claim to have seen nothing.
Desperately hoping that understanding what happened might ease her suffocating guilt, Ky sets aside her grief and determines to track down the witnesses herself. With each encounter, she peels back another layer of the place that shaped her and Denny, exposing trauma and seeds of violence that were planted well before that fateful celebration dinner: by colonialism, by the war in Vietnam, and by the choices they’ve all made to survive.
“Would an explanation of why something was not done in the past make you feel better?” he said, defaulting to a line he often used on Ky’s mother whenever she re-litigated his past decisions…
This quote reflected in words a feeling I’ve had myself many times. I often tell myself this any time I find I’m dwelling on the past that can’t be changed, and it helps to let things go and move on. The message to let go and move on is strong in this whole book. Ky’s mother reflects this in a way, whose mindset is that her son is dead and knowing details about why and how isn’t going to make him not dead, so the details ultimately do not matter.
…whatever sense of satisfaction she derived from getting him to admit his faults would be swallowed by the guilt of making another person feel rotten.
Another sentiment I related to quite a lot from Ky was this one. Vindictiveness is not in my nature, and it’s for almost this exact reason. The key difference is that I’m not upset by guilt, I’m upset by cruelty. Ky’s motivation to not be cruel is based only on her guilt that results from breaking a common social contract to avoid conflict and confrontation. Does that imply that she doesn’t truly care about making the person feel rotten? It’s one of many reflections Ky has about herself and her personal identity crisis over the course of the novel.Continue reading “Review in Quotes: All That’s Left Unsaid by Tracey Lien”