BOOK REVIEW: The Happiest Refugee (Anh Do, A&U)

The Happiest Refugee is Anh Do’s debut in the book world and a bruisingly honest depiction of his life to date. The story starts with Do’s parents meeting and falling in love in war-torn Vietnam, and tracks a young Anh as he and his family journey from their homeland to a refugee camp in Malaysia and finally Australia. Do takes us through the pleasures and pitfalls of growing up in Australia as an outsider. One of the things that particularly stands out about his attitude to life is just how unconditionally grateful he is to have experienced everything—even the bad. This book is about war, escape, pirates, love, courage, racism, alcoholism, comedy, tragedy, and, above all, hope. The way Do approaches his story is witty, charming and heart-warming, and just when you think you’re about to die from laughter, he wrenches your heartstrings so hard that within an instant you’re on the brink of crying. This book will appeal to readers young and old, and should be mandatory reading in Australian schools, with its themes of outsiders and acceptance.

B Owen Baxter is a writer, musician and bookseller. He is currently studying Writing and Philosophy at the University of Newcastle. This review first appeared in the September issue of Bookseller+Publisher.

12 thoughts on “BOOK REVIEW: The Happiest Refugee (Anh Do, A&U)

  1. I received Ahn Do’s book for Fathers’ Day and have finished it in record time for me, having found it hard to put down, it was heart wrenching at times, with some delightful moments, and a wonderful and inspiring book that should be made compulsory reading in all schools.
    Thank you Ahn, your our greatest gift.

  2. One of the best books I have read. Could not put it down. Brought back many memories of my own childhood….some good and others not so good!! Thank you.

  3. Anh gave my husband’s boss a copy of his book at a Corporate Function we attended in early December this year. I glossed through it that night and ordered a copy a few days later. From start to finish in the book there was so much unconditional love being shown between family members. A Mother’s unselfish love for her children shone out so much. With Anh having that love and encouragement from his parents has certainly helped him to be who he is today. Well done Anh for writing such an amazing book where many times I stopped reading to wipe the tears! Your Mother is an inspiration and how I would love to meet her.

  4. I read this book for an english essay on journey and loved it. i could not put it down. it has been an emotional journey just reading it. i recommend it to anyone. Ahn Do your mum is an amazing woman.


  6. I had to read this for English and read it over one weekend. It was an amazing story that made me laugh and also nearlly cry and you are thrown between these two emotions of sadness and hapiness throughout the whole book and it just keeps you so interested. You feel like you know the family personally and when they feel pain you feel it also. Anh’s mother is an amazing woman and one who should recieve some sort of recognition for the hardness’ she has faced.

  7. What an amazing and close knit family. I read the book and enjoyed it very much and would recommend it to anyone. April I agree Anh’s mother should get some sort of recognition and also his father. Reading the book Ahn and his brother seem so proud of their parents and when his brother won an award his Mum was overjoyed.

  8. My thanks to the auther for a beautiful book. The best I have read for years.
    It will be my gift to my son and also my grandson this coming Christmas.
    So much love and a wonderful mother.
    I’m so glad that Anh and his family made that dreadful trip. Australia is the better for them coming here.
    Boat People yes, and welcome.

  9. Any one of those uninformed humans who, without knowing anything about other people and their lives, would do well to read this most beautiful story.

    My bet is that if you did you would never again disregard boat people, although that is not the point. The point is that the author is qualified to speak on behalf of himself and is a voice for others who need a voice too.

    “What a great country.”

  10. I attended a conference in QLD a few weeks ago, Ahn you were a speaker had me laughing. I have seen you on a couple of shows on TV so I new about you.
    I was in Adelaide attendind a meeting I was at the airport coming home went to get a newspaper saw your book and decided to buy it (last bookI bought was Goodbye Farewell Amen Mash about the TV show)

    Thanks mate for sharing, it is a story worth telling. What I got from it was that there is good times around the corner and don’t dispair.

    Also a bloody good laugh on the way next time I am going to see one of your shows if am allowed too, I am a grandpop and my Grandson dictates my life I love it.

    So when you get a short fat black walking up to you and shaking your hand it will be me, and by the way I am not the one from the train with the base ball cap who tried to mug you when you were 10.

    The day I started reading your book you invited me to be your friend ( and I don’t mean in a spooky type, stalking way).

    Most likely you wont hear from me again, but you your brothers and sister aunties uncles and above all your Dad and Mum deserve to have a good life, they bloody earned it.

    Your wife and children the best for them, stay who you are mate and things will only get better.
    You know there are two types of people in the world the dreamers and the doers, I am a dreamer and thank god you are a doer.

    Your book had every emotion in my being working overtime.
    Thanks again mate.


  11. This is an inspiring, humorous novel. it displays irony, sarcasm and exaggeration. Not only did this biography touch the hearts of the readers but it also shows how life was back then

    i mean how freaked out would you get if a couple of pirates boarded your little fishing boat and threatened to kill you ?

    Anh Do makes fun of situations which may not be as funny typically in the asian accents

    i would recommend this novel to everyone of all ages.

    you havent read anything until youve read Anh Do’s ”the Happiest Refugee”

    Anh Do is a LEGEND.

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