Author: Audrey Chin
Publisher: Marshall Cavendish International (Asia) Pte Ltd
Type of book: Vietnam, Vietnamese War, spying, hiding, leaving life behind, America, using, opportunities, never letting go, family secrets, generations, 1940s?-2000s?
Year it was published: 2014
In Thong Tran's Vietnam, everyone is at war and no one is who they seem not his adopted father, a French civil servant, not his Blood Father, the Viet Cong rooster master, not his pro-American journalist tutor. Like them, the boy from the Mekong Delta cannot escape the war. And like them, he too must create shades of himself to survive. But even a conflicted heart needs a home. Thong yearns for a true father and a cause to give himself to. He chooses independence, liberty and happiness his tutor and the Viet Cong. Tragically, there s no independence, liberty or happiness at war s end. Re-invented as an American aerospace engineer, husband and father the Viet Cong informer must spend another half a lifetime crossing the Pacific as a defense industry dealmaker before he can set down the bones rankling in his heart.
I've had a hard time keeping up with the characters, but I'll try my best. The main character is named Thong who might be thought of as a filial son and lets people and the war dictate his life. He is intelligent, an opportunist, and tries his best to find a place to be. I also think that he'll disgust a lot of people. He also can't move on from his past. There is his wife Nina, a Vietnamese-American psychologist who descends from royalty and strikes me as a computer of sorts. (Thong often pointed out that because she never experienced what he experienced, she can't understand it.) There is also their son named Tri who seems to be empathetic and seems to suffer from autism and for some odd reason my mind compared him to a damaged man in The Promise by Chaim Potok. Other characters include the uncle Chua Hai who is Americanized on the outside but still has a Vietnamese soul on the inside, then there are also Thong's father, his adopted and blood father, his adopted one having a respectable position while his blood one is a rooster fighter and a military guy and so forth.
This is a lesson that the book has helped me learn. Its not straight from the book: the greatest moments you'll remember are ones that either disgusted you or ones that exhilarated you.
The book is written in first person narrative. Because it really threw me off, Thong doesn't speak in the first chapter of the book, but in fact I won't reveal who does. Thong speaks in the rest of the book. The book is ultimately a story, and if you are hoping to be enlightened on Vietnamese-American culture, or Vietnamese culture, then this isn't for you. However, if you want to be challenged and understand the impact that Vietnamese War had on its people even beyond the end of the war, then this is the right book. The book itself also deals with religion, ideologies, opportunism, karma, paying back and so forth which I've found interesting.
This was a very intense read for me. When I began to read it, for some odd reason I thought it would be similar to Enrico Antiporda book I reviewed, but in fact it was similar to Susan Choi's novel, although the character is not likable for me, and I had a hard time relating to him. Something else I want to mention is that in The Foreign Student by Susan Choi, the author talks and details the Korean War a great deal which helped me understand Ahn Chang. Throughout my reading journey, I also experienced frustration because the first chapter didn't match up the rest of book, until I got to the very end and then realized why it didn't match up. Something else is that I'm not familiar with Vietnam War, and I don't have familiarity with Vietnamese culture or Vietnamese history, so diving into this book was like diving into an icy cold pool. I also was disgusted with the way Thong used certain women in his life. In an odd way as well, I'm writing a story that doesn't have a sympathetic hero, and reading it has helped me realize how other people might see the character I am writing about.
This was given to me by the author
4 out of 5
(0: Stay away unless a masochist 1: Good for insomnia 2: Horrible but readable; 3: Readable and quickly forgettable, 4: Good, enjoyable 5: Buy it, keep it and never let it go.)