The Dragon House
NAL, Sep 2009, $15.00
In Chicago, Iris Rhodes has lived a comfortable life taking no chances until her dad dies. He was a Vietnam veteran who never got over the atrocities he did and witnessed so stayed away for the most part from his family out of fear of his rage. Before he died he was working on his redemption by fostering a center in Ho Chi Minh City for Vietnamese street children.
Iris promised her dad she would finish his dream. She and her friend Iraqi war veteran Noah Woods, who lost a leg in combat, head to Vietnam where his mom hopes her son can finally get past his mental anguish. In country, the visiting Americans are shocked with how many people live on the streets, especially the young. The task seems daunting but when they meet Mai and one armed Minh, who make change selling items to tourists, Iris knows she has found her niche. Neither of them knows what to do about addict Loc, who threatens the kids. Then there is grandma Qui who carries her leukemia ailing granddaughter Tam on her back while selling old books to buy treatment for her beloved. At the center they meet her dad’s assistant, who is getting the place ready.
This is a gripping character driven thriller that hooks the audience from the onset with the profound look at the cost of war even one that ended over three decades ago. The cast is super as Iris and Noah meet the faces of hostilities in Nam like Qui who is desperate sells books so her beloved Tam can get medical treatment only by the time she has the money it is too late. Iris understands though she lives a comfortable middle class existence as her late dad never was the same after his time in Viet Nam while her friend Noah likewise has not been the same after his stint in the desert. This is a great tale that makes a strong argument that the battles continue years after the fighting ended.