This luminous debut novel, which has earned impressive early reviews from media including The New Yorker, The Los Angeles Review of Books and Foreword Reviews, follows a young woman from her childhood in Vietnam to her life as an immigrant in the United States – and her necessary return to her homeland.

As a child, isolated from the world in a secretive military encampment with her distant mother, she turns to a sympathetic soldier for affection and to the only other girl in the camp, forming two friendships that will shape the rest of her life.

As a young adult in New York, cut off from her native country and haunted by the scars of her youth, she is still in search of a home. She falls in love with a married woman who is the image of her childhood friend, and follows strangers because they remind her of her soldier. When tragedy arises, she must return to Vietnam to confront the memories of her youth – and recover her identity.

An inspiring meditation on love, loss, and the presence of a past that never dies, the novel explores the ancient question: Do we value the people in our lives because of who they are, or because of what we need them to be?


  • The novel deals with a number of important and relatable themes, including:
    • Identity and the need to belong
    • Abandonment and the scars it leaves behind
    • Complicated mother/daughter relationships
    • Female friendships
    • The journey of self-discovery
    • Grappling with the past and confronting our memories and history
  • What is it about this debut novel that earned impressive early reviews from media like The New Yorker, The Los Angeles Review of Books and Foreword Reviews?


  • Read a New Book Month – September
  • National Book Month – October


Abbigail N. Rosewood was born in Vietnam, where she lived until the age of twelve. She holds an MFA in creative writing from Columbia University. An excerpt from her first novel won first place in the Writers Workshop of Asheville Literary Fiction Contest. She lives in New York City.


“With precision and dexterity, Rosewood has woven together a tale of staggering artistry, devastation, compassion, and social awareness…[If I Had Two Lives] is a powerful work of fiction.” ―Ryan Smernoff, The Los Angeles Review of Books

“The novel poignantly conjures the difficulties of reconciling the present with ‘an ungraspable history’.” The New Yorker

If I Had Two Lives is one of those rare novels that will linger in the mind and memory long after the book itself is finished and set back upon the shelf.”Midwest Book Review

“Haunting and harrowing, If I Had Two Lives is told with beautiful perception and detail, offering a unique view of late twentieth-century Vietnam and memories that continue to resonate, even in a new world.” ―Foreword Reviews (Starred Review)