Monday 16 October 2017

Across the Mekong River by Elaine Russell

Amazon UK £3.81 £8.27
Amazon US $4.90 $10.50
Amazon CA $13.31

Family drama
US / Laos 

By strict DDRevs definition this may not be Historical fiction, but…
Set mostly in the 1970s, which is not yet at our ‘pre-1950s’ rule, but with small parts before then and parts between 1978 - 1990, it is definitely a good read, and we are amicable to bending the rules occasionally if a novel has some form of historical-setting connection.

"In a California courtroom, seventeen-year-old Nou Lee reels with what she is about to do. What she must do to survive. She reflects on the splintered path that led to this moment, beginning twelve years ago in 1978, when her Hmong family escaped from Laos after the Communist takeover. The story follows the Lees from a squalid refugee camp in Thailand to a new life in Minnesota and eventually California. Family members struggle to survive in a strange foreign land, haunted by the scars of war and loss of family. Across the Mekong River paints a vivid picture of the Hmong immigrant experience, exploring family love, sacrifice, and the resiliency of the human spirit to overcome tragic circumstances."

Across the Mekong by Elaine Russell was a most enjoyable and rewarding read. After a gripping prologue, the main narrative starts with a courtroom scene in California in 1990 where a daughter and father fight each other. This is interspersed with strands telling the story of this Hmong family from their time in Laos in the 1970s until then.

The parts set in Laos are the most gripping, with excellent suspense and compelling characters. The thoughtful and well-written portrayal of the complexity of the political situation and the inclusion of plenty historic details made this very addictive reading for me.

Once the family enters the US, the mood and pace of the novel change. The second part is equally well written and illustrates the immigration experience from multiple viewpoints, although I missed the urgency of the first part a little.

I would thoroughly recommend this book to all who would like to dig a bit deeper into this era of not-too-distant world history. 

© Christoph Fischer

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