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The Given World: A Novel
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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.
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