Review: The Demon Who Peddled Longing by Khanh Ha

Review: The Demon Who Peddled Longing by Khanh Ha

Author Khanh Ha returns with his second novel, The Demon Who Peddled Longing, exploring issues of love and lust, passions run wild, and the tragedy of rape.

Set in post-war Vietnam, The Demon Who Peddled Longing tells the terrible journey of a nineteen-year-old boy in search of two drifter brothers who raped and killed his cousin. Bringing together the damned, the unfit, the brave who succumb by their own doing to the call of fate, their desire to survive and to face life again never dies. Though the boy is psychologically damaged by his family tragedy, after being rescued by a fisherwoman he falls in love with an untouchable girl and finds his life in peril. In the end there is nothing left but a longing in the heart that goes with him.

As with his debut novel, Flesh, Ha’s writing is sweeping and lyrical, focusing on the unnamed protagonist and his all-consuming quest for revenge. Relationships are forever complicated, and no one’s motives are ever truly pure, painting uniquely realistic portraits of people as strange as they are familiar. Though the story takes its time unfolding in an epic cinematic sprawl that emphasizes sensory details as much as a sense of the unknown, readers will be drawn into the slowly simmering action, curious to discover just what bubbles beneath. Exploring the unfamiliar physical terrain of Vietnam, as well as the well-trodden metaphysical landscape of vengeance, Ha delivers well-drawn characters and a suspensful storyline that will keep readers turning pages.

An excerpt from The Demon Who Peddled Longing

Demon Who Peddled LongingLate at night she’d go bathing in the river. He’d lie awake, listening to the gentle sound of water she poured on her body, away from the lantern light, where water was chest high, cool and cloaked in blackness. When she came up, lowering her head to enter the domed cabin, she was a dark figure save the whiteness of her towel-wrapped head. He’d keep still and find sleep hard to come by in the scent of her body soap.

She was a teenager. Then her parents died, one after the other. She stayed with another family and every day she followed the dikes and the canals where hummingbird trees were in blossom and, with a hook-fitted bamboo rod, she’d cut their white flowers and gather them in a basket. From early morning until noon. And she sold them in the market. Then one day by a canal she met a fisherman who was a war veteran, then later a prisoner of war. He bought those white flowers from her on the day of his mother’s anniversary of death. He asked her to bring him fresh flowers every day, and she asked who else he needed to pay respects to. He said no one. One day he asked her to come on his boat and he cooked her a meal and it was on his boat that she saw all the flowers he’d bought lying wilted in a heap at the foot of his plank bed. She could smell their bad odors during the meal. Later she left the family who had taken her in and lived on the boat with the man.

Preorder Links

Amazon / Barnes & Noble

About the Author

authorkhanhha-headshotKhanh Ha is the author of Flesh (2012, Black Heron Press). He is a three-time Pushcart nominee and the recipient of Greensboro Review’s 2014 Robert Watson Literary Prize in Fiction. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in Waccamaw Journal, storySouth, Greensboro Review, The Long Story, Permafrost Magazine, Saint Ann’s Review, Moon City Review, Red Savina Review, DUCTS, ARDOR, Lunch Ticket, Cha: An Asian Literary Journal, Tayo Literary Magazine, Sugar Mule, Yellow Medicine Review, Printer’s Devil Review, Mount Hope, Thrice Fiction, Lalitamba Journal, and other fine magazines.

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