Mistakes to Run With by Yasuko Thanh

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Canada: Hamish Hamilton, April 2019
World English Audio: Audible


Yasuko Thanh (Photo: Don Denton)
(Photo: Don Denton)

Yasuko’s story collection Floating Like the Dead was published by McClelland & Stewart in 2012 and was shortlisted for the Danuta Gleed Award and the B.C. Book Prize for Fiction. One story in it won an Arthur Ellis Award for Best Crime Short Story. The title story won the Journey Prize for the best story published in Canada in 2009. Quill and Quire named Floating Like the Dead a best book of the year. CBC hailed Yasuko Thanh one of ten writers to watch in 2013. Her debut novel Mysterious Fragrance of the Yellow Mountains, inspired by the history of her father’s family in French Indochina, won the Rogers Writers’ Trust Prize for the best novel of 2016. Yasuko lives in Victoria, B.C., with her two children.

Mistakes to Run With

a memoir by Yasuko Thanh



“There is much in Mistakes to Run With to ponder about sacrifice, human nature, and acceptance.” —BC BOOKLOOK

“On rare occasions, you read a book that gives you the sense it had to be written, that the impulse to get these words on the page was more about necessity than choice. Books such as those are full of passion, pain and urgency, and offer the kind of triumph you feel lucky to witness. Mistakes to Run With is one such book – it feels driven by the compulsion to document, by the urgent human desire to be heard. And when every detail has been shared, every unvarnished truth thoughtfully relayed, Thanh makes you want to stand up and cheer the accomplishment.”

“Bold, brave, and engrossing. …Thanh’s survival is story of sheer will and one that will keep you riveted to the page.” —VANCOUVER SUN

“Yasuko Thanh’s new memoir Mistakes to Run With lands with jarring force…. The book’s honesty is relentless, and its spirit of survival defies platitudes.

“Mistakes to Run With is refreshingly brave, bold, and open. Rather than hiding behind a tidy story arc, Yasuko Thanh places value on all life experiences, good, bad, beautiful, scary, and sad. The result is an incredibly rare and generous thing—a memoir that lets me in so close to her life, it changed how I see mine.”
 —CLAIRE CAMERON, author of
The Last Neanderthal

“In this remarkable memoir, Mistakes to Run With, Yasuko Thanh takes us on an unflinching and honest reflection on a life threaded with poverty, violence, rape, addiction and mental illness. I was profoundly moved by Thanh’s tenacity amidst dire conditions and odds. At her lowest moments with everything against her, Thanh held on to the resolute hope that things will get better. With a writer’s eye, Thanh finds beauty and hope in lost causes and the strength in language to explain how one survives. Thanh mines her past to make sense of who she is and was always meant to be—a brilliant writer and an exceptional woman.”
 —CARRIANNE LEUNG, author of
That Time I Loved You

Mistakes to Run With cover

In her memoir, Mistakes to Run With, Yasuko Thanh, author of the award-winning novel Mysterious Fragrance of the Yellow Mountains, reflects on her journey from a runaway and prostitute to a successful writer.

In 1998, when she realized she was pregnant with her first child, Yasuko began to examine her past and consider what she wanted her future to be like. Yasuko had lived on the street since the age of fifteen, and her life included prostitution, arrests, drugs, an abusive relationship, and struggles with mental health. What would she tell her child about the kind of person she was? How could she move forward as a writer, or as a student wanting to continue her studies, with only a Grade Nine education? With remarkable insightfulness and candor, Yasuko Thanh deconstructs a past filled with harrowing troubles and inspiring triumphs to discover the path that led her to become an award-winning author.

Mistakes to Run With explores the links between memory, identity, and art while asking important questions such as: Under what circumstances would someone disobey the law? In what ways do we sacrifice our freedoms in exchange for economic advantages? Can we truly love the people who hurt us?



“The ordinary mingles with the monumental…. A novel that feels simultaneously historical and firmly contemporary.”  — MAISONNEUVE Magazine

“A compelling and devastating debut.”  — THE GLOBE AND MAIL

“Deft touches of magical realism lend this story of love, obligation, and sabotage the mysterious aura referenced in the title.”  — PUBLISHERS WEEKLY, starred review

Mysterious Fragrance of the Yellow Mountains will carry you away with the startling clarity of it language—you will almost forget you are reading at all. Until, that is, you are drawn up short by the uncanny sense that this book is not really about the past at all … that it is instead directly addressing you, the reader.”  — JOHANNA SKIBSRUD, Scotiabank Giller Prize-winning author of The Sentimentalists

“Sweeping yet intimate, Mysterious Fragrance of the Yellow Mountains is a novel in which not a single, haunting detail is trivial, and a devastating edginess straddles what is intoxicating, astonishing, and at once ancient and contemporary. Yasuko Thanh has rendered a richly imagined narrative of five men plotting, drinking, dreaming of poison against the fascinating backdrop of colonialism and revolution, where ghosts, superstition, love, and insanity seethe. This is a book to be savoured, thought about, and discussed -- a book to be remembered.”  — ALEXANDRA CURRY, author of The Courtesan

“The universal legacies of colonialism: guilt, revenge, violence, ghosts. Yasuko Thanh captures Viet Nam's historical intrigues in story-telling that is compelling, vivid, tragic, passionate.”  — KIM ECHLIN, author of The Disappeared



Author Yasuko Thanh at launch of Mistakes to Run With in Victoria, BC
Yasuko Thanh at book launch in Victoria, BC



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