Almost Eden by Richard Taylor

Almost Eden

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In this third novel in a trilogy, a “donut dollie”—a Red Cross volunteer during the Vietnam War—finds love with a soldier, but his experiences in the jungle will have lasting repercussions on their future together.

Izzy Armand is her family’s “guerrilla girl,” born in the Philippine jungles of Luzon during World War II and named for her grandfather’s late love Isabella, a fighter in the Philippine-American War. In death, Isabella has visited members of Izzy’s family and those close to them, acting as a guardian angel or advising spirit. She now comes to Izzy, who’s working at Bethesda Naval Hospital, and urges her to follow her heart; Izzy then decides to join the war effort in Vietnam and volunteer for the Red Cross. On the flight over, she meets Lt. Abe Chastain, a minister’s son from Georgia; the two are quickly smitten. Their duties keep them separated, however, and their mutual longing weighs on them just as the burdens of war. As a “smile girl,” Izzy watches men get killed or injured—the very men whose morale she is tasked with lifting. One night at the Rex Hotel in Saigon, she is even forced to take up arms during a Viet Cong attack. Abe struggles with his own losses, watching his friends die senselessly while he’s injured and exposed to Agent Orange, the latter rendering him ill and unable to give Izzy a child. But the spirit of Isabella has not forsaken this couple she’s brought together, and she pushes Izzy back to Vietnam to find them a child. Through the third entry in Taylor’s (Berlin Rendezvous, 2014, etc.) family saga, this volume will be accessible to those unfamiliar with previous installments, as it touches on previous generations of Armands and their wartime experiences along with the role Isabella played in counseling each of them. Izzy is a charming, atypical protagonist: a strong, resourceful woman whose role as donut dollie offers a unique view of the war. Having served in Vietnam, Taylor brings sensitivity to the subject, humanizing both combatants and civilians, never sensationalizing the violence, and never allowing the impact to become merely a backdrop for a love story.

Wartime romance that refreshingly forgoes the sentimentality.

Pub Date: Dec. 10th, 2014
ISBN: 978-1-5033-6288-8
Page count: 240pp
Publisher: CreateSpace
Program: Kirkus Indie
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1st, 2015


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