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The Time in Between by David Bergen

The Time in Between (2003)

by David Bergen

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The Time In Between is, essentially, a quest, a search for something, nobody knows what, and arriving to a conclusion that there was nothing to find in the first place.

Plot-wise, there were no mysteries, buried secrets and life-changing decisions, except, of course, for a death here and there.

The story really is a "time in between" for Ada, Charles' daughter, who must learn to deal with the fact that her father is gone, become ready to leave Vietnam and go home to Canada and just continue to live her life as if this journey never happened. It is emotionally hard, both for Ada, and the reader, to leave this strange place, where so much has happened, and so many wonderful people were met, and go back home, where nothing would be as it was before. This feeling is too close to home for every passionate traveler, since coming home is always a challenge, involving a variety of mixed feelings. ( )
  v_allery | Apr 19, 2015 |
Canadian novelist David Bergen's THE TIME IN BETWEEN is simply one of the most riveting, unputdownable books I have read in a long time. He writes in a starkly elegant style reminiscent of Hemingway. In fact, though there are few similarities, I kept remembering A FAREWELL TO ARMS as I marveled my way through Bergen's book. Probably because this is a book about war and the long-lasting and far-reaching effects that war wreaks on its survivors and their families.

Charles Boatman was eighteen when he went to war in Vietnam. One moment in that war changed him. A instinctive trigger-pull that left him a tortured, guilt-ridden man for the rest of his life.

"He shot a young boy. The boy was standing in the doorway of a hut and he shot him. That's what he did ... he saw right away that it was a young boy and not a soldier ... they chased the remaining villagers out into the fields and called in an air strike. And everything disappeared. The boy that he had shot. The old woman that someone else had shot. All of that disappeared. Only it didn't."

'Only it didn't.' Thirty years later, a ruined marriage behind him, his three children grown, Charles Boatman travels back to Vietnam to try to understand what happened, to try to find peace. He disappears. His older daughter, Ada, and his son, Jon, fly to Danang to look for their father. There are no happy endings here. In fact the Boatman family's story is filled with an ineffable sadness that permeates this elegant novel. And there is also an unmistakable eroticism laced throughout the narrative, in both storylines, that of Charles, and the one of his daughter Ada.

In telling the Boatmans' story, Bergen reveals a broken family in rural Canada, and also a modern post-war Vietnam that not many know, a country that has largely put the past behind them and concentrates on the now, on the ruthless mechanics of survival.

Ada Boatman is carrying a book with her, THE GREAT GATSBY, which I pondered, remembering that famous last line from the Fitzgerald novel:

“So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.”

Charles Boatman, pinned mercilessly to a moment in time when he took a boy's life, a moment he could never forgive himself for.

Fitzgerald, Hemingway - both obvious influences in the work of David Bergen. And there is one more book which obviously played an enormous part in this novel. Bergen disguises the book in his narrative, calling it "In a Dark Wood." But the real book is one written by a North Vietnamese veteran of the war, Bao Ninh's classic THE SORROW OF WAR. I think I must read this book eventually.

THE TIME IN BETWEEN is a book about war, what it does, what it continues to do, to its unlucky participants. When Boatman's son, Jon, wonders why their father never told them about what had happened to him in the war and calls him a coward, Ada is more understanding, saying, "He must have been tormented." And then she also adds that "a person's private horror wasn't something to throw out for group discussion." Indeed.

I know I haven't adequately described what a beautiful book David Bergen has written, but that is what it is. Sensitive storytelling. Elegant (there's that word again), beautiful writing. VERY highly recommended. ( )
1 vote TimBazzett | Sep 24, 2014 |
you know, when you have a book on your "to-read" list for a long time, it's hard not to build the book up. and then, when it's just not as good as you want it to be, you get very disappointed. i'm very disappointed. sorry, david bergen. ( )
  cat-ballou | Jan 22, 2014 |
you know, when you have a book on your "to-read" list for a long time, it's hard not to build the book up. and then, when it's just not as good as you want it to be, you get very disappointed. i'm very disappointed. sorry, david bergen. ( )
  cat-ballou | Jan 22, 2014 |
Another great Canadian work of fiction. It's hard to say I "really liked" it, because I found it to be a dark, almost depressing novel, but it is very well written and heart-wrenching.

Two siblings are in Vietnam looking for their father who had come to visit the country years after being there to fight in the war. A third of the way (or so) into the book the narration shifts to tell the story from the father's perspective before returning to the daughter's POV. She is the main protagonist, though the father's presence is always hovering in the story, almost like a ghost. ( )
  LDVoorberg | Apr 7, 2013 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0812972473, Paperback)

In search of love, absolution, or forgiveness, Charles Boatman leaves the Fraser Valley of British Columbia and returns mysteriously to Vietnam, the country where he fought twenty-nine years earlier as a young, reluctant soldier. But his new encounters seem irreconcilable with his memories.

When he disappears, his daughter Ada, and her brother, Jon, travel to Vietnam, to the streets of Danang and beyond, to search for him. Their quest takes them into the heart of a country that is at once incomprehensible, impassive, and beautiful. Chasing her father’s shadow for weeks, following slim leads, Ada feels increasingly hopeless. Yet while Jon slips into the urban nightlife to avoid what he most fears, Ada finds herself growing closer to her missing father — and strong enough to forgive him and bear the heartbreaking truth of his long-kept secret.

Bergen’s marvellously drawn characters include Lieutenant Dat, the police officer who tries to seduce Ada by withholding information; the boy Yen, an orphan, who follows Ada and claims to be her guide; Jack Gouds, an American expatriate and self-styled missionary; his strong-willed and unhappy wife, Elaine, whose desperate encounters with Charles in the days before his disappearance will always haunt her; and Hoang Vu, the artist and philosopher who will teach Ada about the complexity of love and betrayal. We also come to learn about the reclusive author Dang Tho, whose famous wartime novel pulls at Charles in ways he can’t explain.

Moving between father and daughter, the present and the past, The Time in Between is a luminous, unforgettable novel about one family, two cultures, and a profound emotional journey in search of elusive answers.

From the Hardcover edition.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:08:07 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

Three decades after serving during the Vietnam War, Charles Boatman disappears during a return to the country, followed by his daughter, Ada, for whom the trip brings increasingly complex revelations and awareness about her life.

» see all 3 descriptions

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