Khanh Ha is a different type of author. While some authors focus on sales, others, like Ha, write to break old boundaries and push forward literary achievement. Ha made great literary progress with his first novel, Flesh, but now, instead of falling into a ‘sophomore slump’, he has written something unprecedented.
The Demon Who Peddled Longing is set in post-war Vietnam, a nation overrun by Khmer pirates, thieves, and other malevolent beings. It follows the story of 19-year-old Nam, a young fisherman who embarks on a path of vengeance on 2 drifters who violently raped and killed his cousin, who he also shared romantic feelings with. The story begins with Nam in the Plain of Reeds, where he is stumbled upon by an abnormal fisherwoman. While assisting her and earning money Nam plans his next steps in pursuit of the drifters. When the partnership ends badly, Nam runs away from the fisherwoman and on to the South.
On the journey to Southern Vietnam, Nam meets many people, good people who have had their hearts turned black due to the longings their soul carries. This is where also we see the devastation a corrupt and violent government (Communists) and outlaws can inflict upon innocent lives. Nam’s presence in each of these lives both alleviates the darkness in their hearts but also further escalates some already tense situations.
Whether it be through the colorful markets of cities or the remote fishing villages on the coasts, Nam is always on the lookout for his cousin’s killers. When the boy uncovers the truth of his cousin’s death, he becomes a man with his own compass to guide the direction of his life. This independence lasts until the pain of further longing and oppression reveals to us all that none of us are truly in complete control and often fate isn’t black in white, but grey, in its outcome.
The Demon Who Peddled Longing is truly a literary masterpiece. Utilizing very immersive visuals and the imprint the senses leaves on each of us, the novel delivers an unconventional epic of vengeance, longing, and compassion. The dialogue, which at first may confuse a reader, emerges to enhance the writing to make it a very organic and rhythmic read.
Khanh Ha is masterful and unmatched in his ability to show how violence can lead to atonement and how, like a lotus flower, beauty can arise from the deepest depths of darkness. His writing style and structure is something unseen before, giving the reader a more realistic story of how no one is in complete control of their life’s path and how compassion and redemption can still arise out of the darkness of longing and oppression.
Khanh Ha: Author Bio
Khanh Ha studied Journalism at Ohio University and learned the craft of writing under Daniel Keyes (Flowers for Algernon) and Walter Tevis (The Man Who Fell to Earth). He is the author of Flesh (2012, Black Heron Press) and The Demon Who Peddled Longing (2014, Underground Voices). Khanh Ha is a five-time Pushcart nominee, a Best Indie Lit New England nominee, and the recipient of Greensboro Review’s 2014 ROBERT WATSON LITERARY PRIZE IN FICTION. His work, The Demon Who Peddled Longing, was honored by Shelf Unbound as a NOTABLE INDIE BOOK.