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On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous is a mesmerizing audiobook by award-winning author Ocean Vuong. The audiobook tells the story of a young Vietnamese-American man who writes a letter to his illiterate mother, recounting their family’s tumultuous past and his own coming-of-age experiences.

In this audiobook review, we will explore the different elements that make On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous a must-listen audiobook.

Key Takeaways

  • On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous is a poignant and beautifully written audiobook that explores themes of family, identity, and social issues.
  • The poetic prose of the audiobook is a standout feature, with the use of literary devices creating a powerful emotional impact on listeners.
  • The main character’s depth and development throughout the story makes for a captivating listening experience.
  • The narration and production quality are top-notch, elevating the audiobook to a higher level of excellence.
  • Overall, On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous is a highly recommended audiobook for listeners who enjoy literary fiction and profound storytelling.

About the Author

Ocean Vuong is a Vietnamese-American poet, essayist, and novelist, born on October 2, 1988, in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. He immigrated to the United States at a young age and grew up in Hartford, Connecticut. Vuong is a graduate of Brooklyn College, where he received his MFA in poetry, and lives in Northampton, Massachusetts. His debut poetry collection, “Night Sky with Exit Wounds,” won the 2016 Whiting Award, the 2017 T.S. Eliot Prize, and was a finalist for the National Book Award. His first novel, “On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous,” was published in 2019, and has already garnered widespread critical acclaim.

Vuong is known for his powerful and poetic writing style, which often explores themes of identity, memory, and trauma, drawing from his own personal experiences as the son of Vietnamese refugees. His work has appeared in numerous publications, including The New Yorker, The Atlantic, and The Nation, among others.

Notable works by Ocean Vuong:

  • “Night Sky with Exit Wounds” (2016) – poetry collection
  • “On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous” (2019) – novel

Overview of “On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous”

“On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous” is a debut novel by Ocean Vuong, a Vietnamese-American poet and essayist. The story follows the protagonist, Little Dog, a young Vietnamese-American man, as he reflects on his childhood, his family’s migration to the United States, and his experiences with love, violence, and identity. The story unfolds through a series of letters written by Little Dog to his mother, who is illiterate and cannot read them.

The book explores themes of memory, trauma, family, sexuality, and the immigrant experience, providing a deep insight into the Vietnamese-American community in the US. More than just a coming-of-age story, “On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous” is a lyrical and poignant meditation on the human condition.

The audiobook, narrated by the author himself, is a masterpiece of poetic prose that captures the beauty and pain of Little Dog’s journey. Vuong’s writing is evocative and profound, filled with metaphors, allusions, and other literary devices that make the book a work of art.

This book is a must-read for anyone who appreciates literary fiction or wants to gain a better understanding of the immigrant experience in America. It is a powerful and emotional journey that will leave a lasting impact on readers.

Poetic Narrative in “On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous”

The poetic prose and literary devices used in “On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous” make it evident that Ocean Vuong is an extraordinarily gifted writer. The book’s narrative style is beautifully crafted, filled with metaphors that breathe life into the story. The author’s mastery of literary devices adds depth and nuance to the audiobook, imbuing it with poetry. Vuong’s language is impactful, evoking powerful emotions that resonate with readers.

One of the most striking aspects of the book’s narrative is the author’s use of sensory detail to create vivid imagery, drawing readers deeper into the story. The book’s emotional resonance stems from the author’s ability to weave a narrative that is both deeply personal and highly relatable.

Symbolism and Imagery

The use of literary devices such as symbolism and imagery plays a crucial role in the book’s narrative. The author employs these devices to create subtle connections between the different elements of the story, adding layers of meaning to the overall narrative. For example, the recurring imagery of the scar on Little Dog’s face represents not only the physical violence he has suffered but also the emotional scars left by his traumatic past.

Metaphors and Allusions

Metaphors and allusions are also used extensively in the audiobook. For instance, the author uses the metaphor of the butterfly to symbolize the fleeting nature of beauty and life. Similarly, the allusions made to the works of other authors and poets enhance the literary quality of the audiobook, demonstrating the author’s deep understanding of literary history and his place in it.

Character Analysis

“On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous” by Ocean Vuong is a poignant exploration of identity, family bonds, and love. The book’s main characters offer a glimpse into the struggles and triumphs of people trying to find their place in the world.

The protagonist, Little Dog, is a complex character whose experiences reflect the author’s own journey. As a gay Vietnamese American, Little Dog navigates the challenges of growing up in a culture that doesn’t always accept him. Throughout the book, readers witness his growth and evolution, from a boy grappling with his identity to a young man coming into his own.

Another critical character is Little Dog’s mother, Rose. Rose’s struggles with addiction and mental illness shape her relationship with her son and reveal the harsh realities of poverty and systemic discrimination. Despite the challenges she faces, her love for Little Dog never wavers, and she remains a symbol of resilience and strength.

The author’s skillful character development allows readers to connect deeply with the characters and their experiences. The emotional journey readers undertake with the characters creates a lasting impact that lingers beyond the book’s final pages.

The character development in “On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous” is a testament to Ocean Vuong’s mastery of storytelling. Through his characters, he highlights the importance of finding one’s voice, and the transformative power of love and acceptance.

Themes Explored in “On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous”

The audiobook “On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous” explores several key themes that are relevant to contemporary society. One of the most significant themes is social issues. The book tackles issues such as classism, racism, and immigration, shedding light on the challenges faced by marginalized communities. Through its powerful narrative, the book also emphasizes the importance of empathy and understanding, encouraging listeners to look beyond their own experiences and perspectives.

Identity is another prevalent theme in the audiobook. The book examines the complexities of personal identity, exploring how factors such as family, culture, and sexuality shape a person’s sense of self. With its nuanced depiction of the protagonist’s journey of self-discovery, the audiobook highlights the importance of self-acceptance and the value of diversity.

Family dynamics are also a central theme in “On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous.” The book portrays the complexities of family relationships, highlighting the impact that past trauma and cultural differences can have on familial bonds. Through its vivid characterization, the audiobook illustrates the emotional toll of family conflict and the importance of forgiveness and healing.

Themes Explored in On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous

Examining Social Issues

Social Issues Description
Classism Explores the impact of social class on individual experiences and opportunities
Racism Examines the effects of racial discrimination and prejudice
Immigration Sheds light on the challenges faced by immigrants in the US

Exploring Identity

  • Challenges of personal identity in a culturally diverse society
  • Importance of self-acceptance and embracing diversity
  • The impact of family and cultural background on individual identity

Family Dynamics and Emotional Impact

Family Themes Description
Trauma Illustrates the lasting effects of past trauma on familial relationships
Forgiveness Emphasizes the importance of forgiveness and empathy in overcoming family conflicts
Healing Explores the process of healing from emotional wounds and scars

Overall, “On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous” offers a poignant and thought-provoking exploration of social issues, identity, and family dynamics. Through its poetic narrative and powerful themes, the audiobook leaves a lasting emotional impact on listeners.

Emotional Impact of the Audiobook

The audiobook “On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous” takes listeners on an emotional journey, evoking strong feelings of compassion, empathy, and introspection. Through Ocean Vuong’s poignant prose and the narrator’s expert delivery, listeners are transported into the world of the book, experiencing its joys and sorrows firsthand.

One of the most emotionally impactful moments in the audiobook is when the protagonist, Little Dog, talks about his mother’s experiences as an immigrant and the traumas she faced as a result. This section of the book highlights the struggles of immigrants and their families, creating a powerful and thought-provoking experience.

The portrayal of the complex relationships between family members is another highlight of the audiobook. Listeners will relate to the characters’ experiences of love, loss, and the search for identity, eliciting a rollercoaster of emotions.

The audiobook experience of “On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous” is a journey that will stay with listeners long after it ends. It is a deeply moving and human portrayal of the human experience and the struggles we face in life.

Narration and Production Quality

The audiobook narration and production value play a crucial role in delivering an unforgettable experience to the listeners. In “On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous,” the narrator’s voice captures the essence of Ocean Vuong’s poetic prose, transporting the audience into the world of the book. The narrator’s tone inflections, pacing, and emphasis on certain words and phrases enhance the emotional depth of the audiobook.

The production value of the audiobook is also noteworthy. The sound design elements, such as background music and sound effects, add an extra layer of dimension to the listening experience. The volume levels are consistent throughout the recording, avoiding any abrupt changes that can be jarring to the listener.

The collaboration between the narrator and production team results in a cohesive and immersive audiobook experience. The high production value and expert narration make “On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous” a must-listen for audiobook enthusiasts.

Reception and Critical Acclaim

Since its release, “On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous” has garnered widespread critical acclaim, with audiobook reviews consistently praising Ocean Vuong’s writing style, poetic narration, and emotional impact.

The novel has been recognized as a New York Times Bestseller, a Time Magazine Best Book of the Year, and a recipient of the 2020 Goodreads Choice Award for Poetry.

Publication Rating Review
Publishers Weekly Starred Review “[Vuong’s] exquisite lyricism, his tender empathy, and his radiant humanity are on full display in this groundbreaking novel. This is a book of sustained beauty and lyricism, a dizzying feat of poetic prose, and a marvel of storytelling.
The Washington Post Highly Recommended “Vuong is a masterful poet, and the way he writes prose can intoxicate the reader with the beauty of its imagery and its sensitivity to the complexity of human emotions.”
The Guardian Four out of Five Stars “Vuong’s impressive writing style blurs the lines: it’s poetic but not flowery; spare but not unemotional; blunt but artful…It’s a delicate feat that he also accomplishes in the audiobook version, where his poetic delivery allows the words to land with just the right weight.”

Comparisons to Other Works by Ocean Vuong

In this section, we compare “On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous” to Ocean Vuong’s other notable works. One key similarity is Vuong’s distinctive literary style, characterized by poetic prose and metaphoric language that explores complex themes of identity, trauma, and social issues.

However, one noticeable difference is the narrative structure, with “On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous” being presented as a letter from a son to his mother, while Vuong’s earlier works like “Night Sky with Exit Wounds” involved a diverse range of poetry on themes of grief, sexuality, and migration.

Book Published Genre
Night Sky With Exit Wounds 2016 Poetry
Burnings 2010 Poetry
Seventh Circle of Earth 2021 Poetry

As evident from the table, Ocean Vuong has written prolifically in the poetry genre, with notable works including “Night Sky With Exit Wounds,” “Burnings,” and “Seventh Circle of Earth.” However, “On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous” marks his debut novel, and the shift to prose has allowed him to explore themes in greater depth and complexity, showcasing his versatility as a writer.


After listening to “On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous” by Ocean Vuong, it’s clear that this audiobook is a work of art. The poetic prose and literary devices used throughout the narrative make for a captivating listening experience, and the characters and themes explored are both complex and thought-provoking.

The emotional journey that listeners are taken on is truly unforgettable, and the narration by the author himself further adds to the impact of the audiobook. The production quality is excellent, with clear audio and well-timed music and sound effects.

Overall, “On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous” is a must-listen for anyone who appreciates literary fiction and wants to be taken on a powerful emotional journey. It comes highly recommended and is a shining example of an exceptional audiobook.

Thank you for reading this audiobook review conclusion and we hope it has provided helpful insights into “On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous” by Ocean Vuong.

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