Endorsements & Reviews
Eighteen-year-old Queena Phu was raped and beaten at the public library in Bloomingdale, FL, in 2018. This memoir by Queena’s mother highlights how violence impacted their family and community for years. Nguyen recounts events before, during, and after her daughter’s ordeal with pathos, sparing no grim details. Middle chapters intersperse Nguyen’s narrative of emigrating from Vietnam during the period following the Communist capture of Saigon with Queena’s struggles to achieve developmental milestones in her recovery. These sections are the most successful in highlighting how Nguyen’s willingness to endure hardship to improve her daughters’ quality of life was once again activated by the attack at the library. Nguyen makes explicit the range of issues survivors of violence face, including struggles with the U.S. health care system, sentencing requirements for her daughter’s attacker within the justice system, and victim’s rights advocacy. Nguyen’s Christian faith is a theme throughout. At times, the text is repetitive, and some direct quotations in later chapters are overly long.
VERDICT: Recommended to those seeking personal accounts of survivors of sexual violence, and those who have followed Queena’s story.Allison Gallaspy
“Vanna Nguyen’s book is an amazing parallel account of two real-life stories of courage and survival. If you wonder how much a person can endure and still come out on top, wonder no more.This story of an inspiring mother-daughter relationship of relentless love will show you.”David Yates
“The Life She Once Knew is an inspiring account of heart-wrenching, compounded trauma and miraculous triumph over evil. Vanna Nguyen leads us through her victorious journey over crises which could destroy the strongest among us. As she shares her sacrificial love for her daughter and faith in her Savior, she motivates us all to rise as champions of life and forgiveness.”Tina Yeager, LMHC
“This family has endured tragedy and horrific events that most Americans would find inconceivable. The resilience and courage shown in the face of these events gives us an enormously inspiring story and will change your life for the better. What happened to Queena was unthinkable, but it happened. Her entire bright future was stolen in what seemed like moments. However, what happened after that, through the love of her sister Anna, her mom Vanna, her countless friends and more, will give you chills. If you need an example of the love, courage and determination people can show, even in unfathomable circumstances, read this book.”Caryn McDermott
“This powerful account of courage in response to evil chronicles the birth and maturing of faith in the wake of this world’s shocking malevolence. Vanna Nguyen’s haunting account of her innocent daughter’s attack, set against the backdrop of Vanna’s own struggle as a young Vietnamese “boat person” fleeing for her life, is gripping from the first to the very last word. My mom-heart was touched by this mother’s anguish and need to defend her beloved daughter. My cry for rigid justice was challenged by her extraordinary efforts to forgive the attacker, based on her submission to God’s Word. And my sense of hope was buoyed by the way God upheld this precious family through the process of redefining and finding joy in each moment. Profound, life-changing truths in every chapter. Truly a must-read.”Debora M. Coty
“Riveting! An emotional rollercoaster! Three women’s lives changed forever over a gruesome incident at a library. Hope, faith and love kept them together and their lights bright. A must read!”Thutrung Alexis Nguyen