WHERE THE ORANGE BLOOMS: One Man's War and Escape in Vietnam by Thomas Taylor

WHERE THE ORANGE BLOOMS: One Man's War and Escape in Vietnam

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Well-intentioned but disappointing account of South Vietnamese Ben Cai Lam's involvement in the Vietnamese War and his struggle to escape the country after the Communist takeover. The narrative is told in two voices: that of credited author Taylor, who served as an officer in the US Army during the conflict, and that of Cai, who acted as an ARVN interpreter for Taylor's Second Battalion of 502d Parachute Infantry. The sections in which Taylor--son of US Ambassador Maxwell Taylor--recounts his own exploits are by far the more involving. Cai's sections, owing partly to his limited facility with English, tend to become repetitious and more than a little flat. After serving with the US forces, Cai continued his military career with the Army of the Republic of Vietnam once the Americans began pulling out. Eventually captured, he was placed in a Communist Reeducation Camp. His description of life in the camp is frequently heartrending; his evidence of corruption among his Communist captors, revealing. Through it all, he dreamt of escaping and, after repeated attempts, succeeded in reaching Malaysia, then the Philippines, and finally America. Thanks to a series of ingenious ploys, he was able to rescue his parents and his wife, who had been left behind. Cai's faith in his American colleagues is touching and his repeated attempts to flee his homeland are courageous, but there hangs over his story a disconcerting sense of opportunism and a feeling that perhaps the whole story has not been told. When Taylor turns his attention away from the life of Ben Cai Lam, however, and focuses on his own experiences and on the larger issue of what went wrong in Vietnam, he is invariably engrossing. It's a shame he did not puruse these matters more thoroughly throughout the book.

Pub Date: Nov. 20th, 1989
Publisher: McGraw-Hill