Thursday, May 10, 2012

Right now, I'm reading...

Soldier, Lily, Peace and Pearls

When I was a very young girl in the dark ages now known as the 1970's, my mom would speak of Kampuchea and the Red Khmers. I was too small to understand the details, but I did understand it was scary. TV showed pictures of war, steaming jungles, and dirty children in internment camps. As I grew older, I'm sure we studied this in school, but that was more of a history lesson and lacked emotional context.

In the book, "Soldier, Lily, Peace, and Pearls," Con Cú weaves a vivid image of two families and their struggle for survival during impossible circumstances. I read about one third of the novel last night.

At first, I struggled a little with the names, and I think this is a cultural difference. Once I sorted out Han and Hue and Mei and Minh in my mind, and figured out who belonged where, the story and the ordeals the families go through really grabbed my attention. Imagine being a child ripped away from home, marching through the jungle, surrounded by soldiers chanting “To spare you is no profit, to destroy you is no loss.”

In the middle of all this, the families encounter unexpected kindness and support, and Con Cú shows there can be hope and friendship even in the darkest of times. I hope I will be able to read the rest of the book this weekend, and I'll return with a complete review. This far, I am enchanted.

The lives of eight-year-old Quan Phoc in Phnom Penh and two-year-old Minh Chau Thieu in Saigon change radically when the two cities fall to the Communists in 1975. The Khmer Rouge send Quan’s family to a collective farm in the distant countryside. Minh Chau’s family attempts unsuccessfully to flee Saigon. Her father, a South Vietnamese army officer is sent to a re-education camp and the rest of the family is imprisoned Both children escape Indochina in 1978, aided unexpectedly by the kindness of others. In Pulau Bidong camp in Malaysia, Quan becomes Minh Chau's protector, a role that he will play intermittently for the rest of his life. When Minh Chau's family is resettled in Canada, Quan is left behind. At that point, Quan's protector role passes temporarily to Mathieu Hibou, a soft-spoken university student from New Carlisle, Quebec.

If you're interested in the book, click here to check it out on Amazon!

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