Review: All That’s Left Unsaid by Tracey Lien


Title: All That’s Left Unsaid

Author: Tracey Lien

Published: 30th August 2022, HQ Fiction

Status: Read October 2022 courtesy HQ Fiction/Netgalley



My Thoughts:


After her seventeen year old brother, Denny, is beaten to death in a local restaurant on the night of his high school graduation, Ky Tran, a journalist, returns to home to Cabramatta for his funeral. While her mother makes offerings at Temple and her father sleeps in his slain son’s bed, Ky, learning the local police aren’t actively pursuing the case in part due to uncooperative witnesses, begins her own investigation, desperate to understand why Denny, who’d been voted ‘Most Likely to Succeed’ just hours earlier, was murdered.

Alternating between Ky’s voice and the perspectives of the witnesses, All That’s Left Unsaid by Tracey Lien is much more than a mystery as a young woman tries to solve the murder of her younger brother, this is a stunning novel that explores the themes of guilt, loss, grief, identity and belonging.

“There was so much that she wanted to say—to Denny, to her parents, to anyone who would listen. Apologies, explanations, painful observations that she knew revealed volumes of truth. The words in her head rushed to arrange themselves, colliding and falling in a panic, and in her desperate attempt to speak, she found that all her body would permit her to do was gasp.”

I’ve attempted to complete this review repeatedly but I just can’t seem to articulate my thoughts in a way that I feel does it justice. I found it truly moving, challenging and edifying as Lien writes viscerally of Ky’s complicated relationship with her family, with her community, with her culture, and with herself. I thought the exploration of the complex legacy of the immigrant experience, including inter-generational trauma, through the lives of several characters, was insightful and compassionate.

“There is no way for me to tell her that the loss began well before we were born, that our parents had loss, and their parents had loss, and our ancestors had loss— loss of home, loss of place, loss of self, loss of life—and we were born with that loss, carried it, burdened by it, part of it.”

I’m familiar with the Cabramatta Lien portrays in her novel, having worked in an adjacent suburb during the same time period. I was employed by an organisation that provided many types of support exclusively to Chinese and Vietnamese refugees, and the parents of the preschoolers in my care were eager for their children to thrive and succeed in Australian society. I was, and remain, infuriated with the media and politicians who were unwilling to understand and address the issues affecting the community, and instead amplified racism.

“They’re all fair dinkum this and everyone gets a fair go that. This is the luckiest country in the world, right?…But they don’t tell us that the luck doesn’t extend to us. That’s the big lie. They’ve been shoving it down our throats since we were kids. You’re a fool if you believe it. Not only are they not gonna look out for us, they’re gonna turn on us the moment they think we’re a threat.”

Lien’s prose is eloquent, authentic and expressive. I highlighted at least a dozen passages that I thought were well-articulated, though I’ve shared less than a handful here.

All That’s Left Unsaid is an extraordinary debut, Lien is an author with a lot to say, who left me speechless.


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8 thoughts on “Review: All That’s Left Unsaid by Tracey Lien

  1. This sounds fantastic and like it is my kind of book. I think it will be interesting to compare it to US issues that are very similar. Thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

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