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Across the Mekong River by Elaine Russell

Across the Mekong River

by Elaine Russell

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A self published that doesn't disappoint. Really glad I took a chance on this one. The scene when Laura is sick was a touch melodramatic for my tastes. I also didn't care for the happily ever after perfect ending but I can see others liking it. I would recommend this to readers of Picoult. ( )
  flippinpages | May 11, 2015 |
Laura Lee (Ly Nou) vividly remembers the first few weeks of peace after the Americans left war torn Laos. It wasn't long before that family had fled the cruelty of conquerors , losing one family member after another during their escape to a Thailand refugee camp. This fictionalized tale follows seventeen year old Laura from birth to college, covering the bewilderment of a child caught in a war to a young woman seeking balance between the freedom of American teenagers and the cultural expectations in the Hmong culture. Author Elaine Russell uses flashbacks from Nou (Laura), her mother Yer, and father Pao in this fictionalized account of Hmong refugees.

It is unusual for an American juvenile to sue for freedom, let alone a refugee from Cambodia. The characters seem stereotyped without much depth or individuality. ( )
  bemislibrary | May 26, 2013 |
The story of and extended family from Laos first escaping to Thailand and later ending up in California. It is told in first person by the father, mother and eldest daughter of the family. Each has a totally unique personality as they struggle first with the initial escape and then trying to adapt to the totally alien American culture. What I really loved was how "real" these people are. You feel they are probably out there living their lives. The ending was especially satisfying as Russell takes a direction that I never expected. I recommend this book without pause. It would be great for a book club. ( )
  muddyboy | Oct 23, 2012 |
Except for the fact that Elaine Russell is certainly not a Hmong name, and her pictures show her to be very much a strawberry blonde Caucasian, one would think that this was a memoir written primarily by a Laotian young woman. It narrates the experiences of a family that was caught up in the Secret War—the conflict between American- and Communist-backed backed forces in Laos—their escape to a refugee camp in Thailand, and their eventual emigration to the United States. They were members of the Hmong tribes that sided with the United States and then suffered from reprisals when the communist Pathet Lao won.

The subject matter alone makes this a rather interesting story. Despite some quarter million Hmong now living in the U.S., it's a relatively unknown conflict here: Vietnam overshadowed so very much and what attention span was left tended to be grabbed by the atrocities the Khmer Rouge committed in Cambodia.

The primary story teller in Across the Mekong River is Ly Nou, later known as Nou Lee and, finally, Laura Lee. Her struggles to come to terms with her parents are prologue and epilogue to the novel and her story is the thread that ties everything together. However, hers is not the only voice; both her father and mother have chapters told from their perspective.

At first, this round-robin seemed to break the flow and I found myself impatient to hear Nou/Laura speak again. However, by the end of the book, my opinion had changed. Russell's novel has three distinct parts. The first is the flight from Laos. The second is a glimpse into life in the Thai refugee camps. The third, and largest, is the struggle with assimilation once the family reaches this country and the differences that adults and children have with it. Had we only had Nou/Laura's voice, the parents might have come across as two dimensional: hidebound, rigid and unrealistic. However, by letting us see some of the events from their point of view, we can reach a level of...perhaps not agreement...but understanding.

It's for Hmong readers to decide the accuracy of the depictions but, for a non-Hmong reader, the story is interesting and illuminating. ( )
3 vote TadAD | Sep 10, 2012 |
Across the Mekong River by Elaine Russell is part PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) and part immigration story set just after the end of the Vietnam War. Nou Lee and her family were forced to flee Laos following the Vietnam War after her father fought with the special forces alongside the Americans. His life and that of his family were threatened by the succeeding communist government, forcing them to take flight in the middle of the night across the Mekong River.

Across the river that takes some of the lives in an explosion of gunfire and rapids, the family finds itself in a refugee camp in Thailand. To be Hmong family means duty and hard work for the good of the entire family from grandparents to cousins and aunts and younger siblings, and above all respect for culture and ancestors. The hard life this family has seen from their days in Laos and in Thailand where they struggle to feed their children makes the dream of freedom in America even more alluring.

Read the full review: http://savvyverseandwit.com/2012/08/across-the-mekong-river-by-elaine-russell.ht... ( )
  sagustocox | Aug 29, 2012 |
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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.… (more)

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