Huynh's sparkling memories of his childhood in a Vietnam hamlet are so intimately involved with wild beasts and so far from our own experiences that they seem the stuff of fairy tales, yet so clearly and naturally recalled that we never doubt their veracity. Huynh tells us of Tank, the family's formidable water buffalo, an obedient and loyal helper who so fiercely defended the other water buffalo from an invading tiger that he never had to till the soil again. He remembers his cousin, who used a pet python for a pillow, and his grandmother, a Chinese opera fan and karate expert, who once laid low, with a high kick, a bully harassing her mild husband at a restaurant--then managed it so the husband got the respect. He tells of a monkey trained on opium to pick tea leaves, and of an old opium smoker whose pet dog and four lizards got high and dreamy with him every day at six. He recalls heroic battles, as when the hamlet's men and dogs struggled all night to kill a ferocious lone wild hog that fatally attacked a young farmer, and when the whole community pitched in to kill a huge and dreaded ""horse snake."" There is also a delightful story of a young bride dragged off by a crocodile on her wedding night, then found bruised but alive the next morning, and a sadder tale, obviously polished over time, of a bridegroom killed by a ""two step snake."" (Once bitten, you were dead before you took two steps.) Only at the very end, reporting how Tank was killed by a stray bullet, does Huynh mention the fighting that disrupted this way of life and his own plans to live out his life there. His loss, though, is a gain for American readers.