Anh continues seeing Suzie in his law classes. He is happy when she comes to his defense one day in class, when a friend of his, Steve, jokingly makes fun of Anh for snuggling up to him during a recent camping trip, during which the two friends shared a tent.
Suzie is clearly still the woman whose opinion Anh most esteems. His happiness when she comes to his defense against his friend also suggests that she, too, feels protective of him.
One evening, Anh accompanies Steve to the Harold Park Hotel, a famous comedy club. With Steve’s encouragement, Anh signs up for an open mic night at the club to do a 5-minute routine about a disastrous holiday he’d once gone on. To his surprise, the routine goes over well with the audience. Not only that, but a woman comes up to him after the show and books him to do a 10-minute routine at another comedy club.
Anh’s attendance at the comedy club marks a key moment in his life, given that this experience opens up the door to another career for him. Indeed, the fact that Anh is immediately booked to do another routine after his first presentation also indicates that he clearly has a talent for comedy.
In his fourth year of law school, Anh begins interviewing for top law firms, but at a three-day retreat interview for the law firm Anderson Consulting, he realizes once and for all that law isn’t for him. And yet, Anh gets offered a job at Anderson Consulting—a job that would resolve all of his family’s financial problems. Upon discovering that he would be working 60-65 hours a week at the job, however, he is in two minds about taking it, especially given that he doesn’t like law work.
Almost at the end of his studies, Anh must face the knowledge that he does not like the law, and has no interest in it. He is at a crossroads here: the job offer from Anderson Consulting would solve his family’s financial problems, but it would also mean that he must commit himself to drudgery and long hours that he has no appetite for.
At a comedy event, Anh learns from his friend Dave, a comedian, that he works only four hours a week. Dave also informs Anh that the averagely successful comedian earns between $50,000-100,000 a year, which is more than what Anh would earn at a law job with Anderson Consulting. What Anh doesn’t quite realize at this point is that it takes the average comedian five to ten years of working for very little money to achieve this kind of income. But, when he hears about what a good life Dave has, he decides to switch to comedy. He turns down the law job at Anderson Consulting. His mother, always supportive, tells him to go for the comedy career if he thinks he can do it.
Anh’s impulsive decision to turn down the job with Anderson Consulting and to take up comedy instead reveals the courage and boldness that Anh demonstrates during key junctures in his life. Of course, such courage is also the result of naivety, and yet it shows that Anh is unafraid to follow his own path when he feels called to do so. That his mother is supportive of the move also suggests that Anh’s courage and boldness have their roots in his parents’—in this case his mother’s—support.
Anh works extremely hard for a year taking any performances that come his way. In 1999, he wins the Harold Park Hotels Comedian of the Year award. This is soon followed by another big award—he wins a comedy competition in Canberra, for a prize of $5,000. He uses the award money to get his sister Tram braces. Tram, throughout her childhood, has been so self-conscious over her misaligned teeth that she barely smiles. Finally, Anh can afford to help her.
Anh’s incredible capacity for hard work is revealed by the fact that within a year a half, he achieves what it takes some comedians years and years to achieve: he establishes his reputation as a major comedian by winning big awards. His decision to use his award money to get his sister braces also shows his immense sense of responsibility as Tram’s older brother. In his success, he thinks of his family first.
Anh calls up Suzie one day and discovers that she has recently broken up with a boyfriend. They go to see a film, and then spend all night talking. Something has changed in their relationship. Anh again shares his feelings for her, and this time, to his delight, Suzie confesses that she also has feelings for him.
Suzie’s changed feelings for Anh indicate that, with time, she has gained a new appreciation for him. His devotion to her, as well as his respect for her feelings throughout their friendship, is finally paying off, as Suzie comes to realize how special he is.
As a result of his comedy work, Anh begins getting small television parts, and a year and half into his comedy career, he is offered a job hosting the television show “Rush TV.” With a regular income for the first time in his life, Anh secures a mortgage to buy a house for his mother in the neighborhood of Yagoona in Sydney. When he takes her to see the house, his mother is so happy that she begins weeping.
With each successful step he takes, Anh thinks of his family, and how to help them. This is reflected here in Anh’s procuring of a mortgage to buy his mother a home. Just as he had helped his sister afford braces when he won the comedy award, here he uses his income to provide his mother with her dream house. Anh’s thoughtfulness reflects how important family bonds are to him.
Three months into his relationship with Suzie, Anh realizes that he’s very happy, and remembers his father’s advice that if he finds the right woman, he should marry her. Anh proposes, and Suzie accepts. Engaged at 22, Anh suddenly feels an urge to contact his father and to tell him that he has found the right woman. He takes out the number that he has kept in his wallet for two years, and calls his father. He gets his address in Melbourne and drives to see him.
Anh’s engagement to Suzie marks a milestone in his life—he has now set off on the path to establishing his own family. That his father comes to mind at this time suggests that, even if Anh’s link to Tam is attenuated, it is still very much there. This is particularly reflected in the fact that Anh remembers Tam’s advice when deciding to propose to Suzie.
At his father’s house in Melbourne, Anh sits for an hour talking to him. It has been nine years since he last saw him. He discovers that his father’s new baby son has been named Anh, after him. When he leaves, he gives his father a wrong number. He had hoped, that his father would apologize for abandoning the family all those years ago, and is upset that Tam has behaved instead as though it has been only a short while since they last saw each other.
This first visit with Tam does not meet expectations. While the visit is cordial and polite on the surface, Anh’s decision to give Tam the wrong number suggests that he is not yet satisfied with his father’s behavior, and that he seeks some sort of acknowledgement and apology for the hurt and betrayal that his father has caused.
Nonetheless, Anh calls his father again. This time, on the phone, he notices that his father’s speech is not quite right. He returns a month later to visit his father, this time taking Suzie along. When they arrive, they find that Tam has prepared a massive seafood banquet for them. Anh’s father—whose speech has returned to normal—is at his most charming as he tells funny stories to Suzie and Anh. After Suzie leaves, Anh continues to sit with Tam late into the night. He again notices that his father is slurring his speech, and suddenly, his father collapses, crying.
The second visit with Tam marks the beginning of a change in Anh’s relationship with his father. During this visit, Tam’s impeccable behavior towards Suzie and Anh reminds Anh of his father’s many good qualities. Yet Tam’s breakdown after Suzie’s departure—as well as his slurred speech—indicates that all is not entirely well with Tam. Like his son, he is also experiencing turmoil.
Anh and Suzie go shopping for an engagement ring. The couple decides to have a big engagement party in the Vietnamese style. The party is held at Suzie’s family home, and Anh’s family arrives on the day carrying a large roasted pig, according to Vietnamese tradition. Anh’s mother and the rest of his family are overwhelmed by the opulence of Suzie’s neighborhood, as well as her home, and Anh’s mother frets that perhaps they haven’t brought a big enough pig. Nonetheless, upon arrival, Anh’s mother gives a moving speech in broken English. The engagement party goes off without a hitch. Both families enjoy the Vietnamese banquet that Anh’s family has prepared.
The engagement party is the first meeting of two families who come from extremely different backgrounds and experiences. That Anh’s family is overwhelmed by the wealth and opulence of Suzie’s family home reveals the large gap in affluence between them. That the party is ultimately a success indicates that in spite of the obvious contrasts between the families, Anh and Suzie’s engagement works to bring them together and to forge bonds that cross the cultural and economic divides.
As the couple spend more time with their families after their engagement, cultural differences begin to emerge. Anh’s family likes to subject Suzie to all kinds of elaborate and strange Vietnamese dishes, which she dutifully eats. Anh, for his part, often feels like he is visiting a restaurant when he goes to Suzie’s family home—so immaculate and formal are the surroundings and the meals.
In dwelling on the cultural differences between his family and Suzie’s, Anh alludes to the gulf that separates the families. He describes these differences largely in a humorous tone, however, and in doing so suggests that they are ultimately more amusing than anything else.
Anh and Suzie celebrate their wedding day in the school chapel of St. Aloysius, his old school, with their families. To Anh’s relief, Suzie’s father has insisted on paying for most of the wedding expenses. At the church wedding, Anh cries when a distant relative sings a song dedicated to the couple’s parents. The song makes Anh think about his father, who is not present at the celebration, having excused himself from attending. Anh had been glad initially that his father wouldn’t attend, but now he misses him, although he also thinks of the hardships that his mother and siblings have endured in his father’s absence.
Anh’s sudden sense of sadness at his father’s lack of attendance points to the very conflicted feelings that Anh still holds towards Tam, even though he has resumed contact with him. Anh is sad that his father is absent, and he is still somewhat angry at him. He also clearly feels some guilt at having not wanted his father to attend his wedding, and there seems to be some regret that he had not shown more generosity towards him by insisting on his attendance.
Anh and Suzie move into a flat in north Sydney. Suzie works as a lawyer while Anh continues with his comedy career. At times, he travels to Melbourne for his shows, where his father takes to accompanying him to the performances, helping to carry his props. After one show in Melbourne, Tam confesses to Anh that he has a brain tumor. He also tells him that he wants to meet Anh’s siblings, Khoa and Tram, to tell them that he loves them. But when Anh talks to Khoa about meeting Tam, Khoa refuses to go.
As Anh and Suzie establish their new life together, Anh’s relationship with his father grows. In taking such a deep interest in his son’s life and work, Tam also clearly seeks to mend his relationship with Anh. His revelation that he has a brain tumor suggests that he is aware of his mortality. Khoa’s refusal to see his father, however, suggests that not all of the children are ready to overcome their anger at his betrayal.