By John Shors
Published: NAL Trade; 2009
Synopsis: After promising her dying father, a Vietnam War veteran, to take care of his shelter for street children in Ho Chi Minh City, American writer Iris agrees to take along her childhood friend Noah, now a depressed veteran who lost his leg in Iraq. In Vietnam, they find the shelter has drawn an appealing cast of Americans and Vietnamese, all seeking escape and salvation, including two children exploited by a brutal drug addict, and an impoverished old woman whose granddaughter is dying of cancer.
My Take: I've been hesitating on how to write this review for a long time because I loved John Shors' second novel, 'Beneath a Marble Sky', which was historic fiction, and I think maybe that colored my experience of this book for me. It shouldn't have but I am human. I think I was hoping for another great and fabulous historic fiction book and instead I got a raw and gritty look at modern day Vietnam with a large cast of characters dealing with some serious demons. I wasn't prepared. It's not to say the book wasn't good because it was, Mr. Shors writes beautifully, it's more to say that it's not the type of book that I normally pick up which sometimes works for me and sometimes doesn't.
There was the large cast of characters. Those from the US, Iris - daughter of the man whose death sent her to Vietnam to finish opening the center for street children he had started; and Noah - the wounded Iraqi War veteran who didn't want to go, really, but he didn't want to live under his mother's sad eyes anymore either. And then there were the street children. These poor sad kids whose lives are torturous for no good reason. Their stories are heartbreaking to read.
Iris and Noah arrive in Vietnam and we meet this huge cast of characters and I got lost in the names and sites and sounds of Vietnam as do they. Modern Vietnam is a bustling, messy, crazy place but their Center is an oasis in the center in all of this. Here is where redemption and love is to be found.
Here's the thing, not every book connects with every person and I just wouldn't feel right if I wasn't being honest with you, dear readers. I wanted to love this one and other's did more than me so read their reviews:
(I received a signed copy from the author. Thank you so much for the opportunity to review your book.)