Wandering Souls: A Novel (Paperback)

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Staff Reviews

Taking its title from the real "Operation Wandering Soul" American propaganda campaign during the Vietnam War, this beautiful novel tells the story of a family of three young refugees from Vietnam moving to England after the war. What follows is a haunting story of survival and generational grief over the span of 60 years. Wonderfully crafted using interweaving perspectives, this brisk 200+ page powerhouse of a novel is one that can be read in a single sitting but can have characters that stay with you forever. 

— From Kalani


Longlisted for the Andrew Carnegie Medal of Excellence in Fiction 2024
Longlisted for the Women's Prize for Fiction 2023

Wandering Souls is a poetic, heartbreaking, and ultimately triumphant celebration of the human spirit. Casting well-known history in new light, Pin offers a capacious rendering of the love, loss, and hope of migration. Stunning and unforgettable.” —Qian Julie Wang, New York Times bestselling author of Beautiful Country

There are the goodbyes and then the fishing out of the bodies—everything in between is speculation.

After the last American troops leave Vietnam, siblings Anh, Minh, and Thanh journey to Hong Kong with the promise that their parents and younger siblings will soon follow. But when tragedy strikes, the three children are left orphaned. Reckoning with survivor’s guilt, the siblings are unmoored by their parents’ absence. After a twist of fate lands the trio in Britain, their paths diverge further with every choice they’re forced to make, until it’s unclear if love alone can keep them together.

Wandering Souls captures the lives of a family marked by loss yet relentlessly pursuing a better future. It affirms that the most important stories are those we claim for ourselves, establishing Cecile Pin as a masterful new literary voice.

About the Author

Cecile Pin grew up in Paris and New York City. She moved to London at eighteen to study philosophy at University College London and received an MA at King’s College London. She is a 2021 London Writers Award winner. Wandering Souls is her first novel and was long-listed for the Women’s Prize for Fiction and the Prix Femina étranger.

Praise For…

PEOPLE's "Book of the Week," April 10, 2023 edition
British Vogue, "8 Sparkling Debut Novels to Brighten Up Your Winter"
Zibby Mag, The Most Exciting Debut Novels of 2023
Zibby Mag, Zibby’s Most Anticipated Books of 2023
Goodreads, 105 of the Buzziest Debut Novels of the New Year
Tattered Cover Book Store, The Most Anticipated Debut Books of 2023
Debutiful, The Most Anticipated Debut Books of 2023
GoBookMart, "10 Best Debut Authors of March 2023"
American Booksellers Association, April 2023 Indie Next Pick

"Wandering Souls is more than a story of sacrifice and familial duty. The author has greater ambitions, first signaled in the intricate story structure she builds. . . . What emerges is something special—a polyvocal novel, an essay on inherited trauma and a quiet metafiction about telling stories we don’t own."
Eric Nguyen, New York Times Book Review

"Wandering Souls is immersive, creative and deeply emotional."
Good Morning America

"The glimmering tale—told through a host of perspectives, including Anh’s and later her daughter’s—illustrates the importance of telling one’s own story."

"Pin movingly explores how their lives are shaped—and warped—by larger historical forces, and then how these lost souls struggle to move through denial and into some tentative form of acceptance."
Los Angeles Times

"Pin's prose is quietly powerful, her voice assured, her love for this fictional family apparent on every page."
Star Tribune

"A debut in name only, Wandering Souls is an astute and sure-footed excavation of family, selfhood, and loss in the shadow of colonial violence. It is also a deeply humane and genre-defying work of love and uncompromising hope through a long-overdue portrayal of Vietnamese life in the UK. A mighty achievement."
Ocean Vuong, New York Times bestselling author of On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous and Time is a Mother

“A tender and rigorous debut from the new Didion of the Asian diaspora.“
Kirkus Reviews

"Powerful . . . a bold debut that breaks new ground in telling the story of the Vietnamese 'boat people' who landed in Britain, a neglected subject in fiction—until now."
The Times, UK

“I raced through it. Beautiful, brilliant, unflinching—it deals with family trauma in a way I’ve been trying to figure out my entire career.“
R. F. Kuang, New York Times bestselling author of Babel

Wandering Souls is a poetic, heartbreaking, and ultimately triumphant celebration of the human spirit. Casting well-known history in new light, Pin offers a capacious rendering of the love, loss, and hope of migration. Stunning and unforgettable.”
Qian Julie Wang, New York Times bestselling author of Beautiful Country

Wandering Souls profoundly grapples with how people survive and remake themselves and their communities after tragedy. The novel asks: What does remembrance require? What are the costs of forgetting? And is there such a thing as moving on? Cecile Pin presents no easy answers. Instead, she has created a form to contain all of the contradiction, heartbreak, hope, and tender humanity.“
Nadia Owusu, author of Aftershocks

“Clear-hearted and moving, Wandering Souls tells one of the most important stories of our times, and you can feel, as you read, all it has taken Cecile Pin to write it.”
Lucy Caldwell, author of Intimacies

"Wandering Souls achieves a rare feat, taking a familiar story and making it something entirely new. With language at once both concise and gorgeous, Pin opens a window into questions of duty, identity, and love. Here migration is less a desire for survival than a journey into the thundering heart of family itself, where connection and understanding are hard-won and ultimately redemptive."
Kawai Strong Washburn, author of Sharks in the Time of Saviours

“A haunting exploration of love and leaving told with a quiet longing that grabs you and doesn't let go. Wandering Souls asks what it takes not only to survive unimaginable loss, but to live through it and thrive. Exceptional.“
Jenny Tinghui Zhang, author of Four Treasures of the Sky

Wandering Souls is deeply moving and deeply generous. Pin writes about the Vietnamese diaspora in the UK—its past and its present—with love and care. I cried reading it.”
Yara Rodrigues Fowler, author of there are more things

“An affecting and beautiful novel that I will never forget. Cecile Pin has crafted tender and heart-breaking story of a family’s journey from Vietnam to the UK, demonstrating the power of human resilience and hope despite losing everything. A must read.”
Sara Jafari, author of The Mismatch

“Meticulously researched and beautifully imagined, Wandering Souls is a deeply affecting debut, a restless inquiry into the nature of loss, kinship and survival.”
Tash Aw, author of We, the Survivors

“How do you carry your ghosts across an ocean? Wandering Souls is a novel about survival and loss and ways they cannot always be untangled. Pin delicately handles the story of lives built despite the greatest of wounds.”
Rowan Hisayo Buchanan, author of Starling Days

“A beautiful meditation on the ties that bind us and the circumstances that separate us. Pin writes of the consequences of war and subsequent displacement with insight and compassion. May this pave the way for more stories that not only open our eyes to the lives of the Vietnamese diaspora but will also enrich our lives in the way Wandering Souls does.”
Helena Lee, editor of East Side Voices

“A searing, sweeping and intimate story of such heart and scope. Measured, multilayered and beautiful. A novel I will remember, and recommend.”
Rachel Long, author of My Darling from the Lions

“The humanity in this novel pulses with tenderness and honesty and blooms from the page like it does in the hearts of these characters. Cecile Pin has delivered a profoundly unforgettable tale.”
An Yu, author of Braised Pork

“A haunting, gut-wrenching story, Wandering Souls is more than a tender portrait of three child-refugees stuck in Lost and Found, and their journeys through our messy, fragmented world. It’s a defiant statement about migration, prejudice, and the human spirit for freedom and independence. Cecile Pin summons multi-directional voices to evoke the aftermath of Vietnam War, the refugee camps in Hong Kong and Britain, and the tough urban landscape in which the living negotiate with the dead in order to survive and thrive. It’s a brave, vivid, investigative debut that sends shivers up the spine.”
Kit Fan, author of Diamond Hill

“Vietnam's history is at last being written by its people, who were most altered by the war and its aftermath. This deeply affecting novel charts one family's displacement, estrangement, and return: loss passed on like an inheritance to successive generations. Wandering Souls is more than testament, more than fiction. I am full of admiration.”
Jeet Thayil, Booker Prize-shortlisted author of Narcopolis

“An intimate story, a political argument and a reflection on grief and inherited trauma. Wandering Souls is elegant, considered and moving with unusual but perfect form.”
Kate Sawyer, author of The Stranding

“A heartbreaking novel about Vietnamese siblings who arrive as refugees to Thatcher’s Britain. Chronicling the family’s life right up until the present day, it’s a deeply affecting reckoning with history.“
i-D Magazine, Books to watch out for

"Pin's debut follows the siblings into adulthood and parenthood, weaving an unforgettable story of dreams, grief, family, and home."

"[W]hat a stunning novel it is. . . . A poignant and important story . . . written with so much tenderness and sensibility."
Lit Hub

"Pin whittles down faceless history for us to visualize. . . . Seen up-close and personal, you won't forget Pin's story. Her intention."
Enchanted Prose

"With urgency and precision, . . . Wandering Souls captures the lives of a family marked by loss yet relentless in the pursuit of a better future . . . establishing Cecile Pin as a masterful new literary voice."
New Books

"[T]he interweaving perspectives add intricate depth and layers . . . A delight for those who love impeccable storytelling and superb writing."
Country Bookshelf, newsletter

"With concision and clarity, the author shows a deep understanding of how upheaval can splinter families."
Publishers Weekly

Product Details
ISBN: 9781250863485
ISBN-10: 1250863481
Publisher: Holt Paperbacks
Publication Date: March 26th, 2024
Pages: 240
Language: English