A children's rights activist's devastating account of the violence and destitution in her own life, which eventually led her to work with bui doi, the street children of Ho Chi Minh City. Noble, with the help of journalist Coram (Caribbean Time Bomb, 1993), describes a childhood in Ireland tormented by her father's alcoholism and neglect, her mother's death, sexual abuse from a relative, and experiences as a street child and in Ireland's harshest girls' reformatory. In her late teens she fled to England, where she endured 14 years in a physically and emotionally abusive marriage. After a breakdown, she left her husband, went into therapy, remarried, started a successful catering business, and, in a dream, realized that she was destined to work with children in Vietnam. In 1989, after her own three children were grown, she went to Ho Chi Minh City. She raised money to build a medical and social center for an orphanage there and to start her own foundation to help street children. Written with painful precision and clarity, the accounts of Noble's own suffering are disturbing and illuminate the source of her empathy for the desperate. But at times the narrative of her adult life is vague and tentative; her children emerge as sympathetic but flat characters, as do individual Vietnamese children. Similarly, she glosses over the end of her second marriage, blandly noting that her husband ""found someone else."" Toward the end of the book, Noble lapses into trite humanitarian rhetoric, declaring, for instance, that ""we must heal each other like brothers and sisters."" Such strategies of detachment read oddly, especially given the honesty and intimacy with which Noble has disclosed the emotional hardship of her younger years. Despite some holes, a heartbreaking story of a woman's survival and triumph against terrible odds.