Review: The Best We Could Do – Thi Bui

The Best We Could do
Book cover: Bui and her family are standing on a beach. On the left side of the opposite shore is Vietnam, on the left side is the USA. Bui is looking back towards the reader.

An intimate and poignant graphic novel portraying one family’s journey from war-torn Vietnam from debut author Thi Bui.

This beautifully illustrated and emotional story is an evocative memoir about the search for a better future and a longing for the past. Exploring the anguish of immigration and the lasting effects that displacement has on a child and her family, Bui documents the story of her family’s daring escape after the fall of South Vietnam in the 1970s, and the difficulties they faced building new lives for themselves.

At the heart of Bui’s story is a universal struggle: While adjusting to life as a first-time mother, she ultimately discovers what it means to be a parent—the endless sacrifices, the unnoticed gestures, and the depths of unspoken love. Despite how impossible it seems to take on the simultaneous roles of both parent and child, Bui pushes through. With haunting, poetic writing and breathtaking art, she examines the strength of family, the importance of identity, and the meaning of home.

In what Pulitzer Prize–winning novelist Viet Thanh Nguyen calls “a book to break your heart and heal it,” The Best We Could Do brings to life Thi Bui’s journey of understanding, and provides inspiration to all of those who search for a better future while longing for a simpler past.

I was looking for a graphic novel to read for Asian Lit Bingo, that would translate on my Kindle. My Kindle doesn’t have a colour function, so I was looking for something that would work for greyscale. The Best We Could Do is graphic novel that uses just brown colours, so I thought it would be perfect. I decided to read this since it fit the requirement of being a graphic novel and also to learn more about the impact of the Vietnam War on refugees and their children.

It’s #ownvoices for Vietnamese representation.

I very much enjoyed the illustration style in this novel. It’s very simplistic without many colours, which I thought lent a lot of emotions to the story. It also made some of the scenes a lot harsher, as one was not able to avoid the scene by looking at intricate illustrations. The scenes were short but through the pictures, one got the feeling of movement. The facial expressions and small comments that the characters made (which had little to do with going on with the plot) gave the story a more intimate character and also led to me understanding the how the different family members felt about certain situations.

It’s a powerful story and I thought that telling it through the medium of a graphic novel, gave this book a lot of strength. I learnt quite a bit about the Vietnam War as I must say that I really didn’t know much before getting into this story.

The Best We Could Do is a beautiful non-fiction graphic memoir that illustrates Thi Bui’s life and how it was influenced by the Vietnam War, as well as her family’s experiences as refugees. Due to it being a graphic memoir, it’s a quick read. I learnt a lot while reading. I recommend it to all of you.

Trigger warnings: miscarriage, bombs, war.

5 stars

Have you read The Best We Could Do?

5 thoughts on “Review: The Best We Could Do – Thi Bui

  1. This one’s been on my list for a while, glad to hear you can recommend it! Graphic memoirs are so good about making the most of the medium!


  2. It sounds like a fascinating story. I haven’t really read any graphic novels but I do want to try some – this sounds like it’d be a good beginner’s one since it works on the Kindle.


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