The journal that Mai reads, that belongs to her mother, was a really interesting and valuable part of the novel as it actually lets us see, as Mai also is, a little further into her mother and the way her mother thinks and why she is the way she is. Earlier in the novel Mai describes her mother’s wedding photo and how she observes that her mother was once beautiful, there is a sense of disconnect and inability to relate to her mother. The journal provides a chance for Mai to understand her mother on a deeper level.
Because Mai is so much younger than her mother the way she experiences her life in exile and the way she relates to her Vietnamese past is very different than the way her mother experiences and relates to those things. Mai’s comment about the wedding photo is an example of the way Mai can’t really link her mother’s Vietnamese past with who her mother is now. The journals provide insight into the past that Thanh embellishes on but the journals only serve to create more stress for Mai as she struggles to hold on to her past. The descriptions of Baba Quan and the land and the life that they came from only serves to awaken a longing in Mai for Vietnam and for answers to questions that there seem to be no answers for.