The Happiest Refugee

by

Anh Do

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The Happiest Refugee: Prologue Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Anh is on a highway, driving at 130 km per hour. He is crying as he drives. He’s going to visit his father, whom he hasn’t seen for nine years, since he was thirteen years old. Anh is consumed by feelings of rage as he thinks of the visit ahead, and is overcome by fantasies of doing violence to his father, in revenge for him abandoning his family—especially Anh’s mother, who was left alone to look after three children.
The book’s beginning focuses attention on Anh’s conflicted relationship with his father. Anh’s tremendous feelings of rage suggest that he has been betrayed, and hurt badly by his estranged father. The father’s abandonment of the family has clearly led Anh, his mother, and his siblings to suffer terribly, and this is why Anh is so angry.
Themes
Poverty and Hardship Theme Icon
Family and Community Theme Icon
Betrayal and Forgiveness Theme Icon
Anh arrives at the house, which is in a poor, dilapidated neighborhood, and knocks. A young woman opens the door. He can hear a baby screaming. The woman calls for Anh’s father. He appears, and is happy to see his son—reaching for him with affection. Anh is invited inside, where he drinks with his father. He notices, however, that something is wrong with his father’s speech—he seems to slur his words. Soon, Anh will learn that his father is seriously ill with a brain tumor. He doesn’t know this yet, however, and asks his father what the baby’s name is. His father tells him the infant’s name is Anh—he named him after his eldest son.
Anh’s visit to his father’s house indicates that much has changed. Not only is his father terribly ill, as Anh will soon find out, but he has established a new family, and in this way has moved on from his first family. Yet his affection for Anh and his happiness upon seeing him suggest that he continues to feel a strong bond with his estranged child. Furthermore, the fact that Anh’s father names his infant son after his eldest son indicates that he holds his eldest son in great esteem, in spite of their estrangement.
Themes
Poverty and Hardship Theme Icon
Family and Community Theme Icon
Betrayal and Forgiveness Theme Icon