Last Updated on June 27, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 330
Thi Bui’s illustrated memoir The Best We Could Do tells the story of Bui’s family's escape from Vietnam when she was a child. The book begins in the present, when Bui is about to have her first baby. She wants to retain control of childbirth. She says,
But if I surrender, I’m afraid I’ll want a full retreat—to go all the way back. To be the baby and not the mother.
Her mother, Ma, is in the hospital room with her, but Ma has lost babies before and is upset by staying. She leaves the room, and Bui writes,
Ma leaves me but I’m not alone, and a terrifying thought creeps into my head. Family is now something I have created and not just something I was born into.
She is realizing the gravity of becoming a mother—of carrying forth everything her family has been through before her, in addition to the experiences of her and her husband’s life.
Bui tells the stories of her parents’ lives before she and her siblings were born. Her father, Bo, especially, experienced a very difficult childhood. As she nears the end of her narration of Bo's childhood, Bui cuts to the present:
And in the dark apartment in San Diego, I grew up with the terrified boy who became my father.
Then she segues into her mother’s story, and this is difficult for her:
Writing about my mother is harder for me—maybe because my image of her is too tied up with my opinion of myself.
As an adult, Bui contemplates what losing her mother would be like:
What becomes of us after we die? Do we live on in what we leave to our children?
She is fearful for what the future will hold for her newborn son, but she is also optimistic:
I see a new life, bound with mine quite by coincidence, and I think maybe he can be free.
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