Endorsements & Reviews

I was assigned by Hillsborough County Pubic Schools to be Queena’s homebound teacher from the Visually Impaired Program. As part of her therapy team I experienced first hand the strength and faith of both of these two strong women who will never give up. I feel fortunate to have met this determined family and know that readers will be equally inspired by their journey. This is the most motivated family I have ever met in my career.

Elizabeth P. Underwood

Former Teacher of Students with Visual Impairments , School District of Hillsborough County, Tampa, FL

In my prosecution career I have had the honor of speaking on behalf of many victims in court. During this time, I got to know Queena’s family and soon realized that Queena had the stron- gest voice of all her family. Vanna’s retelling of her life and her devotion to Queena is an emotional journey that continues to leave me in awe of her strength, perseverance, and devotion.

Rita Peters

Prosecutor

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

Tulane Univ., LA

“The Life She Once Knew is a very compelling and uplifting book. It seems to capture the spirit of Queena and her loving fam- ily. I don’t believe I have ever met a person and family whose faith is so extraordinary especially under the circumstances that was put upon them.We can all learn from Queena, and I believe you will also better appreciate your life and your family after reading her story in The Life She Once Knew: The Incredible True Story of Queena,The Bloomingdale Library Attack Survivor.”
Steve Stock

CEO, Guy Harvey Inc.

“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

Producer, Dolphin Tale and Dolphin Tale 2

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

Award-Winning Author, Speaker, Flourish-Meant Podcast Host, Life Coach

“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

IB Coordinator/Assistant Principal (retired), Land O’Lakes High School

“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

inspirational speaker and award-winning author of over 40 books, including the best-selling Too Blessed to be Stressed series with over 1.3 million copies sold in multiple languages worldwide, www.DeboraCoty.com

“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

ealthcare executive, CEO, Board Member

“I was riveted by this book that masterfully weaves together the back story of Queena’s family’s escape from communism, and her journey of survival following the horrific attack that left her blind and in a wheelchair.
If you think the focus of The Life She Once Knew will be mere sadness and tragedy, you are sorely mistaken. It instead serves as an anthem for female empowerment; proof of the commitment that a community has for a survivor; and a testament to the love Jesus Christ has for us all. 
I recommend this book to anyone who needs inspiration, and to those who want to learn what it means to NEVER give up.”
Renee Warmack, MPA

Producer | Speaker | Coach, Renee Warmack Productions, LLC