What a lovely story: a story that marries romance, war, hardship, and tragedy. Not only was it beautifully written, but skilfully too. The use of the first person narrative for each of the main characters was executed extremely well.
The main character, Martin, comes in the form of a lumbering, overweight, ginger-haired man, who, at thirty-six, still lives with his mother—a mother embittered by her empty marriage to his father, a veteran of the Vietnam war that changed him irrevocably.
Martin is an unlikely hero, but what is so appealing about him is his development from a bland, stay-at-home character, who has a boring and mundane job, to a wholesome and determined person.
When his dying father asks Martin to scatter his ashes in Vietnam, Martin manages to bungle the request big time: little does he know that his error will eventually lead him to the mysterious and beautiful Vietnamese My Phuong. Vietnam is an unwelcome word in his mother’s vocabulary, and its new prominence in Martin’s life opens up a box of family secrets, regrets, and renewed resentment. A resentment so strong, she is determined that Vietnam will not ruin her son’s life like it ruined her own.
The ending stuns and astounds you, and Martin brings his story to a poignant, touching, and satisfying conclusion.
There’s no doubt that the author was passionate not only about his characters, but about Vietnam too: that passion shone through clearly and embraced a first-class story.