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In this audiobook review, we will dive into “The Best We Could Do,” an illustrated memoir by Thi Bui. This critically acclaimed book takes a unique approach to storytelling, blending evocative illustrations with powerful prose to create a moving and unforgettable reading experience.

Throughout this article, we will explore the themes, messages, and emotional impact of “The Best We Could Do,” as well as Thi Bui’s artistic approach to memoir writing. We’ll also take a closer look at the audiobook version of this work, analyzing the narration and performance to see how it enhances the overall listening experience.

Join us as we delve into the world of “The Best We Could Do,” a powerful and poignant memoir that is not to be missed.

About Thi Bui

Thi Bui is a talented artist and writer known for her powerful storytelling and poignant illustrations. Born in Vietnam, Bui and her family fled to the United States as refugees when she was a child. Her experiences growing up as an immigrant in America have heavily influenced her work, which often explores themes of identity, family, and the immigrant experience.

Bui’s background in art and education has paved the way for her successful career in graphic novels and illustrated memoirs. She holds degrees from the University of California, Berkeley, and has taught art and digital media at California College of the Arts.

Notably, Bui’s debut graphic novel, “The Best We Could Do,” garnered critical acclaim and was a National Book Critics Circle finalist in 2017. The memoir tells the story of Bui’s family and their journey from war-torn Vietnam to the United States, providing a deeply personal and moving perspective on the refugee experience.

“I think that something that’s really important in art is sharing stories that aren’t being shared, and in telling stories that are from one’s own experience, it’s almost like an act of love, an act of preservation, an act of paying homage to the past, a transmission of history and emotion.”

Thi Bui

Bui’s Works:

Title Year published Awards and accolades
The Best We Could Do 2017 National Book Critics Circle finalist
Chicken of the Sea 2021 Audie Award Winner
Prairie Boy 2021

Synopsis of “The Best We Could Do”

Thi Bui’s “The Best We Could Do” is a powerful and moving illustrated memoir that weaves together her family’s history and her own journey of self-discovery. The book follows Thi Bui’s parents as they flee war-torn Vietnam in search of a better life for their family, and the challenges and obstacles they face as immigrants in America.

The story is presented through a series of flashbacks, with Thi Bui reflecting on her childhood and the impact her parents’ experiences have had on their family dynamics. The graphic format provides a unique and immersive experience, allowing readers to see the characters’ emotions and experiences vividly illustrated on the page.

Throughout the book, themes of identity, family, and the immigrant experience are explored, as readers witness the struggles, triumphs, and heartbreaks of the Bui family. “The Best We Could Do” is a testament to the resilience of the human spirit and the power of family bonds.

“Thi Bui’s memoir is nothing short of a masterpiece. Her deft storytelling and stunning artwork provide a deeply moving and poignant exploration of the immigrant experience and the enduring power of family. This is a book that will stick with readers long after they turn the final page.”

The Power of Audiobooks

The popularity of audiobooks has been steadily increasing in recent years, with more readers opting to listen to books rather than reading them. This trend is driven by the many benefits audiobooks offer to readers.

  • Flexibility: Audiobooks allow readers to enjoy their favorite books while doing other things, such as exercising or driving.
  • Accessibility: Audiobooks make it possible for individuals with visual impairments or learning disabilities to enjoy books.
  • Enhanced Experience: Listening to an audiobook can provide a unique and immersive experience that enhances the emotional impact of the story.

“The Best We Could Do” is a perfect example of a book that can be enjoyed in audiobook format, with its visual storytelling and emotional themes translating well to audio.

“Audiobooks create a more immersive experience when the right narration and performance is married with the content,” says literary agent Mark Gottlieb. “With audiobooks, you’re effectively inviting the author into your home or car or ears and that’s a big deal.”

Whether you’re a long-time audiobook lover or just getting started, there’s no denying the unique benefits they offer. “The Best We Could Do” is an excellent example of an audiobook that can offer readers a powerful and memorable experience.

An Artistic Approach to Memoirs

Thi Bui’s “The Best We Could Do” combines the artistry of visual storytelling with the narrative structure of a memoir. This illustrated memoir is a testament to the powerful impact of combining art and literature.

By utilizing illustrations alongside her written words, Bui creates a visceral experience that immerses the reader in her family’s journey from Vietnam to the United States. The illustrations provide a unique perspective, allowing the reader to see beyond the words and into the emotional depth of the story.

Through her artistic approach, Bui offers a fresh take on the memoir genre, providing a new and engaging way to connect with a story. The illustrations enhance the reader’s experience, inviting them to become fully immersed in the story, and creating a lasting impact that resonates long after the final page.

Narration and Performance

One of the standout features of the audiobook version of “The Best We Could Do” is the exceptional narration and performance delivered by author Thi Bui. Bui’s expressive and emotional delivery brings every moment of the story, both triumphs and tragedies, to life in an unforgettable way.

Listeners will be captivated by Bui’s ability to capture the nuances of each character, making them feel real and relatable. Her narration also enhances the listening experience by drawing attention to the powerful visuals in the illustrated memoir, describing them with vivid detail that paints a picture in the listener’s mind.

Overall, the narration and performance in the audiobook version of “The Best We Could Do” create a deeply immersive and emotionally resonant audiobook experience that is not to be missed.

Themes and Messages

“The Best We Could Do” is a poignant exploration of the complexities of family, heritage, and identity. Through the lens of Thi Bui’s own family history, the book tackles a range of themes that are both universal and deeply personal. At its core, the memoir is a meditation on the ways in which our pasts shape our present, and the impact that those legacies can have on future generations.

One of the most powerful messages of “The Best We Could Do” is the importance of resilience. Throughout the book, Bui’s family members demonstrate an incredible capacity to weather hardship and adversity, showing readers the strength and perseverance that can arise from even the most difficult of circumstances.

Another key theme of the book is the idea of belonging. As Bui grapples with her own sense of identity and belonging, she also examines the ways in which our connections to family and heritage can shape our sense of self. Ultimately, the book suggests that true belonging isn’t just a matter of blood ties or cultural connections, but rather a feeling of acceptance and integration that can be found with those who truly see and understand us.

Central to “The Best We Could Do” is the idea of intergenerational trauma. Through Bui’s exploration of her family’s experiences in war and displacement, the memoir examines the ways in which trauma can be passed down from one generation to the next. The emotional impact of this theme is visceral and deeply affecting, and serves as a reminder of the far-reaching consequences of conflict and displacement.

Overall, “The Best We Could Do” is a masterful exploration of a range of themes that are both universal and intensely personal. Through Bui’s skilled storytelling and artistic vision, the book speaks to the power of family, heritage, and the human spirit in the face of adversity.

Critical Reception

“The Best We Could Do” has received widespread critical acclaim since its release, with many praising author Thi Bui’s poignant and evocative storytelling. The book has garnered numerous accolades, including being named a National Book Critics Circle finalist and a New York Times Critics’ Top Book of the Year.

The book’s illustrated format has also been widely lauded for its unique and effective approach to memoir, with reviewers praising Bui’s artistry and visual storytelling skills.

“‘The Best We Could Do’ is a triumph, equal parts wrenching and redemptive, in no small part thanks to Bui’s exceptional skill as an artist and storyteller.” -The Christian Science Monitor

Despite its overwhelmingly positive reception, some critics have noted a lack of focus in the book’s narrative structure, and some readers may find the book’s emotional themes to be challenging to confront.

Notable Reviews:

Publication Review
Time Magazine “Bui has written and drawn a memoir that deserves a place on the shelf alongside Maus and Persepolis.”
Publishers Weekly “A powerful and honest reflection on identity, family, and the immigrant experience.”
The Atlantic “Bui’s understated but powerful storytelling style allows her to convey the weight of these histories without drawing attention away from the larger story of her family’s journey.”

Overall, “The Best We Could Do” has received critical acclaim for its artistry, storytelling, and emotional impact.

Personal Reflections

Reading “The Best We Could Do” was a profound and emotional experience that left a lasting impact on me. As a reader, I appreciated the unique format of an illustrated memoir, which provided a visual element to the already powerful storytelling present in the book.

From my perspective, the emotional connection to the characters and their stories was palpable throughout the audiobook. I found myself deeply invested in the parallel journeys of Thi Bui’s family and the country of Vietnam. The complex themes of loss, identity, and family were expertly woven together, leaving me reflecting on my own personal experiences and relationships.

“Thi Bui’s memoir swept me away with its beautiful illustrations and powerful storytelling. It’s a poignant and universal story that resonates with readers, speaking to shared experiences of family, loss, and identity.”

The illustrations added a layer of artistry and beauty to the already impactful story. The imagery complemented the prose, evoking emotions that words alone could not. As I listened to the audiobook, I found myself stopping to admire each illustration, marveling at its depth and reflection of the accompanying narrative.

Overall, “The Best We Could Do” left a lasting impression on me as a reader, reiterating the importance of personal connections and family ties, reminding me of the resilience of the human spirit in the face of adversity. I highly recommend this book to anyone who is looking for a powerful and emotional read that will stay with them for a long time.

illustrated memoir


Overall, “The Best We Could Do” by Thi Bui is a powerful and impactful audiobook in the form of an illustrated memoir. Bui’s artistic approach to storytelling through illustrations and her skillful writing make for a compelling listening experience.

The emotional depth and honesty of the book’s themes, spanning from family and identity to immigration and war, are felt throughout the audiobook, leaving a lasting impression on the listener. The narration and performance by the voice actor enhance the experience, bringing the characters and their stories to life.

Despite some critique of the book’s pacing and structure, the overwhelming critical reception has been positive, and it is easy to see why. “The Best We Could Do” is a book that stays with you long after the listening experience is over, inspiring personal reflection and growth.

For those interested in memoirs, visual storytelling, or exploring immigrant experiences, “The Best We Could Do” is a must-listen. It is a moving and thought-provoking audiobook, leaving a lasting impression on any listener.

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