Elegant if a bit lugubrious story of the odd reunion of a Vietnam vet with his Amerasian daughter.
One of the more enduring legacies of the war in Vietnam are the con lai—half-breed children of American GIs and Vietnamese women. Fifteen-year-old Mai is one of these. Her father, Aaron, was a US Army surgeon who did several tours of duty in Southeast Asia in the early ’60s, while her mother, Linh, was the daughter of a rich and prominent Vietnamese family. Life for the con lai was difficult in the best of times, but it becomes especially hard with the fall of Saigon and the advent of a communist regime that is both anti-bourgeois and anti-American. After enduring a succession of refugee camps and “reeducation” centers, Linh and Mai emigrate to Paris, where they are taken in by relatives. Mai adjusts well to Paris at first, but after Linh sinks into depression and eventually disappears, Mai becomes an insomniac. Meanwhile, Aaron, who’s been living unhappily in Los Angeles with Evelyn and their daughter Lucy, begins searching for Linh and Mai and locates them in Paris. Now a distinguished specialist in sleep disorders, Aaron brings Mai to LA for treatment and introduces her to his family. Evelyn is understandably upset and wants nothing to do with Mai, and Lucy finds the situation difficult to acknowledge as well. Told alternately from the perspectives of Lucy and Mai, Second-novelist Krygier (First the Raven, not reviewed) portrays the tentative steps by which two young women discover and come to terms with their identities and adjust their perceptions of the world and themselves.
Very flat, though: The author concentrates so thoroughly on the interior world of her two protagonists that it’s difficult to see them as real characters moving through real situations.