Review: A Pho Love Story by Loan Le

  • Title: A Pho Love Story
  • Author: Loan Le
  • Publisher: Simon Schuster Books
  • Release Date: 2/9/21
  • Genre: Romance
  • Age Range: Young Adult
  • Rating: ★★★★★

A Pho Love Story features Linh Mai and Bao Nguyen, whose parents own competing Vietnamese Restaurants in their California town. The two of them end up spending time together through assignments for their high school newspaper. Bao and Linh fall for each other and want to fiugre out what started the feud between their families in the first place.

I love when books alternate perspectives between characters, and it added a lot to the story that the reader is let in to both Bao and Linh’s thoughts and feelings. Especially because the book is about two feuding families, it is important to get a sense of where each family is coming from.

Linh and Bao are both such likable characters that it is impossible not to root for them to be together. Linh is a talented artist, and Bao supports her and encourages her to follow her passion. In turn, Bao begins the book feeling lost and unsure of what he wants to do with his life, and Linh helps him realize his dream of writing. It is also beautiful that Bao is willing to help Linh and her family in their restaurant when they are shortstaffed, despite their parents’ rivalry.

I am also a big foodie, and I love stories about people who love food as much as I do. It was so fun to read about Linh and Bao enjoying the food at the restaurants they visited to review for their school newspaper.

“I start salivating the moment the aroma wafts from my ramen – intense and smoky. It doesn’t disappoint. The first spoonful of broth coats my tongue in a silky layer, and the noodles are still firm yet give way easily under my teeth. The egg is sweet and salty, soaked in umami.”

Of course, A Pho Love Story left me craving Vietnamese food.

Most notably, this book tells an important story about the American Immigrant experience. A Pho Love Story reveals the difficulties Bao and Linh’s parents faced both before and after leaving Vietnam. Through the book, Bao and Linh learn more about their parents’ lives in Vietnam and the circumstances surrounding their escapes.

Bao and Linh’s parents also face xenophobia including a racist person who refuses to pay for his food at Bao’s parents’ restaurant when he accuses them of cheating him out of egg rolls. This leads to horrible reviews on the Yelp page of every Vietnamese business in the area. Bao writes a powerful article defending all of the business owners and calling out the review writer on his racism. I was so moved by Bao’s article, and I continue to be horrified that there really are bigoted people who would write reviews like the ones Bao responds to.

A Pho Love Story manages to be both a sweet romantic story and a story that addresses deep familial trauma and racism.

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