This book is beautifully written. This story is set during the Vietnam War, but it goes back in time to the Great Hunger and Land Reform. I liked the characters in this book. They are realistically flawed. In this story the grandmother, Tran Dieu Lan, shares her story with her grand daughter, Huong who is growing up amid the Vietnam War. Her mother, father, and uncles have gone to fight, and she is awaiting their return. I love the relationship between Huong and her grandmother. I loved her uncle Dat. I sorrowed for her mother and the pain she endured from PTSD.
I liked that this book shows the effects of war on children, on returning veterans, on the environment, and on families. War damages everything it touches.
I liked her dedication of this book: "For my grandmother, who perished in the Great Hunger; for my grandfather, who died because of the Land Reform; and for my uncle, whose youth the Vietnam War consumed. For the millions of people, Vietnamese and non-Vietnamese, who lost their lives in the war. May our planet never see another armed conflict."
At times this story is terribly sad, but it is also a story of resilience, hope, survival, and strength.
Quotes I liked:
"The challenges faced by Vietnamese people throughout history are as tall as the tallest mountains. If you stand too close, you won't be able to see their peaks. Once you step away from the currents of life, you will have the full view . . ." (3)
"I touched the front door before our departure. Through my fingertips, I felt my parents' and uncles' laughter" (10).
"A pink glow pushed through the eastern horizon. Birds sang on tree branches. The first sunrays glimmered on the husks under my feet. I held the broom, sweeping sunlight into a pile" (23).
"What my uncle said made me think. I had resented America, too. But by reading their books, I saw the other side of them - their humanity. Somehow I was sure that if people were willing to read each other, and see the light of other cultures, there would be no war on earth" (161).
"I wanted to tell my uncle not to blame himself but feared I'd interrupt his thoughts. Perhaps he had to untangle his feelings on his own by talking out loud, so the he could understand how it was to be alive, and to be dead at the same time" (164).
"Till this day, if you happen to listen to my heartbeats, you might hear the singing voice of my Auntie Tu. She nurtured my soul with songs so that I can sing on" (292).
"The turbulent events of our history had not just ripped people apart, they'd imprinted on them a sense of guilt about things over which they had no control" (326).
I connected to a lot in this book even though I haven't endured a war or armed conflict on our land.
Link to our NICU book registry if you'd like to donate books to babies in the newborn intensive care unit so their parents can read to them while they grow. You can also donate gently used books to our project by sending them to me or to Angie. Email me for a mailing address. We can use both English and Spanish books. If you have a graduate of the NICU, or if you have a baby whose life you would like to honor by donating books to this project, let me know, and I can make a book plate with their name for the books you donate