The narrator is a Vietnamese husband who has a beautiful, flirtatious wife. They have been living in the New Orleans area for more than a decade, arriving in America after the fall of South Vietnam. The husband tells a remarkable story about the lengths to which he has gone, both in Vietnam and in America, to intercept and discourage his wife’s extra-marital interests. The narrator is humorously self-deprecating and matter-of-fact.

In Vietnam, he was a spy for the Americans, and able to "bring fire from heaven" in the form of American rocket attacks to scare off his wife’s would-be lovers; in America, he adapts to the local culture by consulting a "low-down papa" voodoo specialist. What follows this consultation is a hilariously told sequence of events that succeeds finally in winning the wife’s loyalty.


Robert Olen Butler won the Pulitzer Prize in 1993 for this wonderful collection of short stories, all about Vietnamese who immigrated to the New Orleans area as a result of the Vietnamese war. Each is told from a unique perspective, evoking with great sensitivity life in Vietnam, and the traumas of war and cultural dislocation.


First published: 1992 (Henry Holt, New York)

Primary Source

A Good Scent from a Strange Mountain



Place Published

New York


1993 (paperback)

Page Count