A bruised, breathtaking love letter never meant to be sent. A powerful testimony to magic and loss. A marvel.” ~ Man Booker Prize Winning author Marlon James on Ocean Vuong’s debut work, On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous

Ocean Vuong’s debut work definitely made a mark on me. Of the books included in my 2019 Book I Look Forward To List, this is the one that made the greatest impressions (although I have yet to read Sally Rooney’s Normal People which I have heard great things of). The novel’s interesting premise and melancholic setting were its primary driving forces.

But there is more to the novel than just a son’s letter to his single mother who was still living in the past. Vuong is a natural-born poet and it translated very well into his debut novel.  On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous is one of the most lyrical novels I have ever read. Its wonderful language, matched with Vuong’s amazing storytelling made up for a very quotable book. Here are some of the best quotes from the book.

If you haven’t checked out my thoughts on this amazing work of bildungsroman, you can click on this link:

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“Did you know people get rich off of sadness? I want to meet the millionaire of American sadness. I want to look him in the eye, shake his hand, and say, ‘it’s been an honor to serve my country.”
Ocean Vuong, On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous

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“It is no accident, Ma, that the comma resembles a fetus – that curve of continuation. We were all once inside our mothers, saying with our entire curved and silenced selves, more, more, more. I want to insist that our being alive is beautiful enough to be worthy of replication. And so what? So what if all I ever made of my life was more of it?”
Ocean Vuong, On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous

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“Migration can be triggered by the angle of sunlight, indicating a change in the season, temperature, plant life, and food supply. Female monarchs lay eggs along the route. Every history has more than one thread, each thread a story of division. The journey takes four thousand eight hundred and thirty miles, more than the length of this country. The monarchs that fly south will not make it back north. Each departure, then, is final. Only their children return; only the future revisits the past.”
Ocean Vuong, On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous

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“If we are lucky the end of the sentence is where we might begin. If we are lucky, something is passed on, another alphabet written in the blood, sinew, and neuron; ancestors charging their kin with the silent propulsion to fly south, to turn toward the place in the narrative no one was meant to outlast.”
Ocean Vuong, On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous

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“We try to preserve life, even when we know it has no chance of enduring its body. We feed it, keep it comfortable, bathe it, medicate it, caress it, even sing to it. We tend to these basic functions not because we are brave or selfless but because, like breath, it is the most fundamental act of our species: to sustain the body until time leaves it behind.”
Ocean Vuong, On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous

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“Because the sunset, like survival, exists only on the verge of its own disappearing. To be gorgeous, you must first be seen, but to be seen allows you to be hunted.”
Ocean Vuong, On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous

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“To ask ‘What’s good?’ was to move, right away, to joy. It was pushing aside what was inevitable to reach the exceptional. Not great or well or wonderful, but simply good. Because good was more often enough, was a precious spark we sought and harvested of and for one another.”
Ocean Vuong, On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous

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“I am writing because they told me to never start a sentence with because. But I wasn’t trying to make a sentence – I was trying to break free. Because freedom, I am told, is nothing but the distance between the hunter and its prey.”
Ocean Vuong, On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous

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“I am thinking of beauty again, how some things are hunted because we have deemed them beautiful. If, relative to the history of our planet, an individual life is so short, a blink as they say, then to be gorgeous even from the day you’re born to the day you die, is to be gorgeous only briefly.”
Ocean Vuong, On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous

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“You once told me that the human eye is god’s loneliest creation. How so much of the world passes through the pupil and still holds nothing. The eye, alone in its socket, doesn’t even know there’s another one, just like it, an inch away, just as hungry, as empty.”
Ocean Vuong, On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous

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“Who will be lost in the story we tell ourselves? Who will be lost in ourselves? A story, after all, is a kind of swallowing. To open a mouth, in speech, is to leave only the bones, which remain untold.”
Ocean Vuong, On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous

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“All this time I told myself we were born from war – but I was wrong, Ma. We were born from beauty. Let no one mistake us for the fruit of violence – but that violence, having passed through the fruit, failed to spoil it.”
Ocean Vuong, On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous


These are just SOME of the beautiful lines in On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous. There are way too many, but I choose the ones that really created a deep impression on me. How about you fellow reader, what lines from this coming-of-age novel have created an impact on you? Share it on the comment box.

Happy reading!

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