A Mother's Tale & Other Stories
by Khanh Ha
C&R Press

"I cried for his youth and mine, lost, wasted."

The eleven linked short stories of this collection revisit the complexities of the controversial Vietnam War. At once poignant and jarring, the tales are narrated from multiple personal viewpoints: the physically and emotionally maimed soldiers of North and South Vietnam, Vietnamese civilians whose lives are no less desperate than the young men who face certain death, American soldiers and prisoners of war whose fragile lives hang by a thread, and the families of all sides who return to the misty jungles and rice paddies to search for the remains of loved ones missing in action. The spare but lyrical narratives transport the reader into the dreamlike riverine landscapes of a nation haunted by the ghosts of this massive conflict. The characterizations are deep and raw, beset by the paradoxes of cruelty and compassion, loathing and desire, and driven by the perennial human hope for acceptance and love.

The author navigates this amalgam of the living, the dead, and those caught in a hard limbo between the two extremes with grace and a superb sense of dramatic rhythm. “A Mother’s Tale” brings an aging American woman to the Mekong Delta in 1987 to search for the remains of her beloved son. She is accompanied by her devoted, adopted Vietnamese daughter, who rediscovers herself in the land of her birth. Their literal search for bones brings the two women in contact with a North Vietnamese veteran turned caretaker of a roadside inn who realizes he holds the key to their quest. The other tales are no less startling and revealing than the brutal yet tender titular story. This compelling collection could only be imagined and written from the perspective of a native intimately familiar with his national culture and history, making this a must-read for anyone interested in the French Indochina and Vietnam conflicts.

RECOMMENDED by the US Review

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