All the Rivers Flow into the Sea and Other Stories by Khanh Ha

Source: the author
Paperback, 210 pgs.
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All the Rivers Flow into the Sea and Other Stories by Khanh Ha, winner of the EastOver Prize for Fiction, are stories in which cultures seem insurmountable until there’s an undercurrent of emotion the breaks through those external barriers. Underneath these stories is the roiling tide, pushing and pulling these characters toward and away from one another.

“He makes me homesick. I realize I’m in a foreign country. I can speak its language, live its habits, think its thoughts, but I’ll never be part of it.” (pg. 178, “The Children of Icarus”)

In the opening story, “The Woman-Child,” there’s a tension between a young Vietnamese man, who returns to Vietnam as part of his research of how shrimp farmers are affecting the waterway, and a young woman who cooks for her fisherman father and feels like the woman at the inn is like a mother. He grew up in America and looks at her through an American lens, but she is a young, independent woman who wants to show no weakness in front of him. These moments of passionate tension and the strength of independence enable the tension to break without the characters themselves breaking under the weight.

“I stared at him. He could have stabbed me and still not have hurt me as much as the tone of his voice did.” (pg. 62, “The Dream Catcher”)

Ha’s characters are complex and struggling against cultural expectation and tempting passions. They are looking for their path, but often find they are pulled into a direction they never expected. There is a tumbling of light and dark into a gray sea that flows between each character who is being tossed on their adrift boat. Ha reminds us that tragedy touched everyone, but it is not always apparent on the surface.

All the Rivers Flow into the Sea and Other Stories by Khanh Ha is another collection that will capture your imagination. From the magical market to the tragedy of lost lives, Ha’s stories are fairy tales in which characters face tragedy head on and seek solace in life and the blessings they have. I didn’t want to reach the end of this collection.

RATING: Cinquain

***Also check out Ha’s poem, a Book Signing Horror Story.

Other Reviews:

About the Author:

Multi award winning author Khanh Ha is the author of Flesh, The Demon Who Peddled Longing, and Mrs. Rossi’s Dream. He is a seven-time Pushcart nominee, finalist for the Mary McCarthy Prize, Many Voices Project, Prairie Schooner Book Prize, and The University of New Orleans Press Lab Prize. He is the recipient of the Sand Hills Prize for Best Fiction, the Robert Watson Literary Prize in Fiction, The Orison Anthology Award for Fiction, The James Knudsen Prize for Fiction, The C&R Press Fiction Prize, and The EastOver Fiction Prize.

Mrs. Rossi’s Dream was named Best New Book by Booklist and a 2019 Foreword Reviews INDIES Silver Winner and Bronze Winner. All the Rivers Flow into the Sea & Other Stories has already won the EastOver Fiction Prize. Visit him on Facebook and Twitter.



  1. I don’t normally read short story collections but this one sounds really good. Great review!

  2. I am so glad you enjoyed ‘All Rivers Flow Into the Sea’! I have read all of Ha’s books and none disappoint! His writing touches me!

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