Monday, August 20, 2012

Review of Across the Mekong River by Elaine Russell

In a California courtroom, seventeen-year-old Nou Lee reels with what she is about to do. What she must do to survive. She reflects on the splintered path that led to this moment, beginning twelve years ago in 1978, when her Hmong family escaped from Laos after the Communist takeover. The story follows the Lees from a squalid refugee camp in Thailand to a new life in Minnesota and eventually California. Family members struggle to survive in a strange foreign land, haunted by the scars of war and loss of family. Across the Mekong River paints a vivid picture of the Hmong immigrant experience, exploring family love, sacrifice, and the resiliency of the human spirit to overcome tragic circumstances

5 stars

Across the Mekong River follows the Hmong family on their turbulent journey from the newly Communist controlled Laos eventually leading them to California.  The viewpoint of the book switches between Nou Lee or Lisa, the main character, and her parents Pao and Yer.

Pao was a freedom fighter during the early stages of the conflict in Laos, fighting so his family's lifestyle can remain the same that it has always been.  When the American's withdraw their support from the Special Forces in country the Communists come after them with a vengeance in order to remove any local resistance before it has a chance to organize.  This begins a very difficult time in the life of their family as they must escape the country without being captured and killed.

This book appealed to me due to my interest in the conflicts that America was involved with during the time this book takes place.  I have read many books about the American Special Forces and the jungle warfare that they were involved in, but this is the first one I've read that deals with the lives of the people who were forgotten in all of the conflict.  I never really thought about the difficulties that the people who were forced to flee to a new country, trying to remain true to their roots while surviving in a land that doesn't understand them.

This book did an excellent job touching on the emotional journey of the various members of the family with the old guard trying to stay as true as possible to their roots and Lisa/Nou Lee trying to fit in at her school.  I was a bit hesitant about this book since it's pretty far from the norm for me, but I find myself saying that a lot lately and always enjoying myself when I venture into new areas.  This book will not disappoint anyone who wants to give it a shot and I highly recommend it.

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