FOR THE SAKE OF ALL LIVING THINGS by John M. Del Vecchio
Kirkus Star

FOR THE SAKE OF ALL LIVING THINGS

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KIRKUS REVIEW

The author of the much admired Vietnam war novel The 13th Valley (1982) now follows a Cambodian family and an American Special Forces officer through the horrifying collapse of Cambodia. Had Cambodia been a European or Central American nation, its agonizing murder/suicide might not have been so easily overshadowed by the war in Vietnam and then Watergate. This lengthy (720-page), unsparing, absorbing depiction of the Cambodian genocide is certain to fascinate and shock those lot whom the actual events were so many televised footnotes. The family at the center of Del Vecchio's intelligently detailed story are thrown violently and suddenly front the peace of their rural village into the several sides of the war. Cahuom, an agricultural agent and entrepreneur, leaves two of his children in a neighboring village to play while he runs an errand. But the village is attacked by insurgents who murder, among others, Cahuom's young daughter. Samnang, the 11-year-old son, is carried away, brainwashed, and co-opted by the insurgents, who have been swelling their ranks by such kidnappings. Later, Samnang becomes one of the most dedicated and vicious of the young Khmer warriors. Meanwhile, Vathana, Cahuom's oldest daughter, marries a bourgeois, sees her city collapse under the weight of the thousands of refugees, and becomes a nurse as the wounded and refugee population explodes. Cahuom and his wife, left in their village, become victims of the crazy ideology of Pol Pot's Maoist lieutenants, driven from one part of the country to another to cultivate rice where it was never meant to grow. John Sullivan, the American Special Forces lieutenant who will fall in love with Vathana, fights an impossible and unsupported battle to counter the effects of America's bewildering swings in policy. Not a bit graceful, but grace might be out of place in this highly accurate description of hell. First-rate.

Pub Date: Feb. 15th, 1989
Publisher: Bantam