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The Given World: A Novel by Marian Palaia
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The Given World: A Novel

by Marian Palaia

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In this raw and unflinchingly honest novel, Palala writes a novel about a family severely impacted by the Vietnam War. Riley in thirteen when her beloved older brother Mick goes missing in the tunnels of Vietnam. Unfortunately just when she needs her the most, her mother is bowled over with grief, and unable to meet Riley's needs. This will set Riley off on a journey to try to find the place she belongs, going to San Francisco and Vietnam and finally 25 years later she will return home.

I loved Riley, she makes so many mistakes, drugs, alcohol, leaving jobs, leaving relationships, never letting anything nor anyone become too important. So afraid of loss, she must always leave first. She does try to help those who she thinks need help the most, drug users, former vets, and people whom have lost their way. She never apologizes for who she is. This is such a gritty story, the sixties and the seventies and the drug culture, the draft and the war also of course the eighties and the AIDS epidemic. She will return home and knows than that she is lucky that there is still a chance and maybe a little something still left there for her.

This is this author's first novel and it is amazingly written. Easy to identify with because there cannot be that many of us that have never made a bad decision in life, or wish that we could turn back the clock and do something differently. Not a easy novel but a worthy one. ( )
  Beamis12 | Jun 9, 2015 |
I liked the unpredictability of this book: the plotting, the language, the way life doesn't hew to a narrative arc—at least not until it's got some ballast, and the way it takes some of us more time to acquire that than others. The writing was lovely throughout, and while at some point the book felt more like linked short vignettes than a novel, it held together admirably. A good ride, and a good read. ( )
  lisapeet | Feb 20, 2015 |
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A sweeping portrait of post-Vietnam America seen through the eyes of a young woman searching for the courage to go home again. It is 1968. Riley is thirteen, and her brother Mick has gone missing in Vietnam. She struggles to understand and accept, but the world she has always known has fallen apart. At sixteen, she meets a boy from the reservation. He becomes her first love and perhaps her deliverance, except that he, too, is sent to fight, unaware that Riley is carrying his child. Riley sets off then, in search of answers, of clues, of a way to be in the world. She travels from her family's Montana farm to San Francisco, and from there to Saigon. Along the way she becomes rescued and rescuer, by and for a band of scarred angels. Among them: Primo, a half-blind vet with a story he's not telling; Lu, a cab driver with an artist's eye and a habit she can't kick; Phuong, a Saigon barmaid who is Riley's conscience and confidante; and Grace, a banjo-playing girl on a train, carrying her dreams and her grandmother's ashes in a tin box. All are casualties, of the times and of the war, but they carry on, none more tenaciously than Riley herself, a masterpiece of courage and vulnerability, wondering if she'll ever be brave enough to return to the place she once called home.… (more)

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