A Real Simple Must-Read Book of Summer 2023

“Mai Nguyen has proven herself to be a real standout.” —Taylor Jenkins Reid, New York Times bestselling author

A tender, humorous, and page-turning debut about a Vietnamese Canadian family in Toronto who will do whatever it takes to protect their no-frills nail salon after a new high end salon opens up—even if it tears the family apart. Perfect for readers of Olga Dies Dreaming and The Fortunes of Jaded Women.

Vietnamese refugees Debbie and Phil Tran have built a comfortable life for themselves in Toronto with their family nail salon. But when an ultra-glam chain salon opens across the street, their world is rocked.

Complicating matters further, their landlord has jacked up the rent and it seems only a matter of time before they lose their business and everything they’ve built. They enlist the help of their daughter, Jessica, who has just returned home after a messy breakup and a messier firing. Together with their son, Dustin, and niece, Thuy, they devise some good old-fashioned sabotage. Relationships are put to the test as the line between right and wrong gets blurred. Debbie and Phil must choose: do they keep their family intact or fight for their salon?

Sunshine Nails is a light-hearted, urgent fable of gentrification with a cast of memorable and complex characters who showcase the diversity of immigrant experiences and community resilience.

About the author(s)

Mai Nguyen is a National Magazine Award–nominated journalist and copywriter who has written for Wired, The Washington Post, The Toronto Star, and several major brands. Raised in Halifax, Nova Scotia, she now lives in Toronto. Sunshine Nails is her debut novel. Visit her at


"Nguyen debuts with a glittering story of a family nail salon in Toronto...Nguyen imbues her characters with humanity and nuance, making hay from all their imperfections. Readers are in for a treat."—Publishers Weekly

"Sharp, witty, and warmhearted, Nguyen's debut tackles gentrification, small business ownership, prejudice in the workplace, and--most importantly--the depth of familial ties, and the power of a good manicure."—Shelf Awareness

Sunshine Nails has been marketed as lighthearted, and it is in many ways — it's funny…and it's a gratifyingly speedy read. But beneath the dust jacket's bright yellows, purples and pinks is a novel of character studies that simmers with questions about work, class, generational divides and the expectations facing refugees making new homes in their asylums.”—NPR

“Filled with heart and humor, Sunshine Nails is an insightful, moving story with striking depth, taking on gentrification, family expectations, and generational differences. You will be rooting for the Tran family through every risk and sacrifice they make to save their salon, and ultimately themselves. Mai Nguyen has proven herself to be a real standout.” —Taylor Jenkins Reid, New York Times bestselling author of Carrie Soto is Back

"The story of the Tran family is full of zany, hilarious fun — but it’s also poignant and told with care. Sunshine Nails made me laugh, cry, and think deeply about culture, family, and the ties that bind. What a witty and engaging debut — I was thoroughly charmed!"—Marissa Stapley, New York Times-bestselling author of Lucky

“An uplifting story about family, acceptance, and moving forward, Sunshine Nails beautifully illustrates the push and pull of generational divides within the boisterous Tran family and the Vietnamese diaspora within their Toronto community. Sunshine Nails is a heartwarming and colorful debut, proving Mai Nguyen to be an exciting new voice in fiction.”Sonya Lalli, author of A Holly Jolly Diwali and Jasmine and Jake Rock the Boat

“Like a fresh set of diamond-encrusted gel nails, Nguyen truly sparkles in this hilarious, poignant and utterly engrossing comedy of Vietnamese diaspora, gentrification, class, race, and the millennial pressures of finding oneself among overbearing family members. The immigrant story is usually stoic and filled with suffering, but here, a new kind of Asian-Canadian narrative comes to light, one that is so fundamentally joyful and human, it will make you laugh out loud and cry simultaneously. With an abundance of wit, heart, and cleverness, Nguyen explores the complex realities of kinship and belonging faced by Asian immigrants. I loved it.”—Lindsay Wong, author of The Woo-Woo and Tell Me Pleasant Things about Immortality