Good Things Come to Those Who Wait by Cindy Hulsey

I’ve tried to embrace Nancy Pearl’s rule about tossing a book if I don’t like it after the first 50 pages, but I must admit that I’ve always been reluctant to give up on a book too quickly. I’ve read many wonderful books that didn’t really captivate me until long after I’d turned that 50th page. The Book of Salt, by Monique Truong, was one of those books.

There is no denying that the language of the book is gorgeous, but it required some patience on my part before I emotionally connected with Binh, a young Vietnamese man who has been banished from his home because his love affair with another man was discovered. Truong uses lush, sensual, poetic phrasing to describe Binh’s world, and if you allow yourself to sink into it and resist the need for action, you will be handsomely rewarded in the end.

After cooking for several years on a sailing vessel, Binh lands in Paris in the late 1920s where he has trouble holding down a job as a cook until he answers an ad and finds himself in the household of Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas. He becomes entwined in their storied lives and gives us a glimpse of their famous guests as well as their private lives and larger than life personalities. With limited language skills, Binh wanders the dark streets of Paris looking for love.  We learn through reminiscences of his loving relationship with his mother, who was given as a child bride to the abusive tyrant he knew as his father.  As Binh’s backstory unfolds, the tale becomes richer, and his pain more palpable. It was at this point that I began to empathize with Binh, feeling the sorrow that both he and his mother had endured.

This is a lovely, bittersweet book that will hold little appeal for those who like their novels to move along at a brisk clip, but for those who appreciate the gift of language and a writer’s ability to hold readers spellbound with the beauty of her words, this book is a voluptuous and satisfying delicacy.

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