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The Eaves of Heaven: A Life in Three Wars by…
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The Eaves of Heaven: A Life in Three Wars (2008)

by Andrew X. Pham

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Showing 5 of 5
An important memoir about Vietnam, although I found the multiple time frames hard to track. ( )
  ElizabethAndrew | May 13, 2013 |
This is a gripping tale of the author's father. The language and imagery are beautiful or bittersweet. And at times, the writing is utterly poetic and read like a fiction in terms of pacing and rhythm. I learned a lot about about Vietnamese history during the French colonial period, Japanese occupation during WWII and the Vietnam War.

I can't say this story was optimistic--it was bracing certainly. It is about survival and the anguish of a people trying to shake the shackles of colonialism and the aftermath of being a pawn. The author's father is likely portrayed as too faultless and too humble at varying times but that is the rightful privilege of an elder recounting his memories.

I do think that adding how the family left Vietnam would have completed the book in a better way, perhaps in an afterward. Having read Catfish and Mandala, I vaguely recall that the author did write about their leaving Vietnam and also about how he and his father had a distant or fractured relationship (and certainly we see how that was partly intergenerational).
( )
  ming.l | Mar 31, 2013 |
Andrew Pham writes for his father, in first person narrative, of his life from childhood to middle adulthood. This time also coincides with the WWII Japanese invasion of Vietnam, the war for independence from France, and the war with the US. The author is a true wordsmith. The writing is lyrical, sensual, and flows beautifully with descriptions of the natural world, the people, and their relationships.

The chapters alternate between his father's childhood and young adulthood. I found this difficult to follow at times because the story changed both time and place when going from chapter to chapter.
That is my only criticism of this beautifully written memoir. ( )
  tangledthread | Oct 31, 2008 |
I enjoyed Andrew Pham's first book, Catfish and Mandala, so I looked forward to reading his latest, the story of his father's life in Vietnam from the Japaneese occupation during World War II through the withdrawal of American forces in 1975.

This book did not disappoint. Thong Van Pham, the author's father, is the son of a wealthy landowning family in North Vietnam. Chapters alternate between Thong's life as a child and early adolescent in northern Vietnam and his experiences as a young adult after his family flees to the southern part of the country.

What I think the author (and his father) do especially well is depict the web of personal relationships between Pham's family, friends, and the farmers working their land, and the inevitability of the conflicts that arise between people who all want independence for their country, but don't agree on how to achieve this goal.

The book is beautifully written, and was helpful to me in putting the "Vietnam war" as we call it in the US, into a larger context of Vietnamese history.
  markon | Oct 16, 2008 |
The Eves of Heaven is an "auto-biography" by Thong Van Pham. In fact it is written by his son Andrew, but he takes on the first person voice of his father Thong, similar to the technique used by Dave Eggers in What Is the What?. It is difficult to know how accurate it is, or what degree of artistic license is involved, but in a way it doesn't matter because as creative non-fiction it reads like a novel.

Not only is the story highly engrossing, thrilling and fascinating, but it is humane. Thong never seems to loose his sense of dignity and respect for life despite the horrors of violence, drugs and prostitution that stalk him. The lush prose is deliciously sensuous in one chapter, then shifts to scenes of deprivation the next, like a master chef playing the pallet between extremes of texture and temperature - and like the fusion of French and Asian culture that is Vietnam.

The Eaves of Heaven covers over 30 years of war in Vietnam as it transitioned from a "feudal" age to the modern world in one or two generations - the Japanese in WWII, the French and then the Americans. One mans lifetime saw it all from start to end. Through this wonderfully written, humane and moving memoir of a single life, the reader is able to more fully understand the Vietnam experience as a whole.

--Review by Stephen Balbach, via CoolReading (c) 2008 cc-by-nd ( )
  Stbalbach | Aug 10, 2008 |
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Epigraph
If I could, I would trade a thousand years to hear my mother's laughter. - Tran Trung Dao
Dedication
In memory of my mother who taught me compassion and sacrifice and my father who taught me reason and justice.
And for my wife who supported me through all my struggles and my children who brought me joy.
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My family came from the Red River Delta, an alluvial plain of raven earth and limitless water.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 030738120X, Hardcover)

From Andrew X. Pham, the award-winning author of Catfish and Mandala, a son’s searing memoir of his Vietnamese father’s experiences over the course of three wars.

The Philadelphia Inquirer hailed Andrew Pham’s debut, Catfish and Mandala: A Two-Wheeled Voyage Through the Landscape and Memory of Vietnam, for evoking “the full sadness of the human condition . . . marveling at spiritual resilience amid irreconcilable facts.” The New York Times Book Review called it, simply, “remarkable.” Now, in The Eaves of Heaven, Pham gives voice to his father’s unique experience in an unforgettable story of war and remembrance.

Once wealthy landowners, Thong Van Pham’s family was shattered by the tumultuous events of the twentieth century: the festering French occupation of Indochina, the Japanese invasion during World War II, and the Vietnam War.

Told in dazzling chapters that alternate between events in the past and those closer to the present, The Eaves of Heaven brilliantly re-creates the trials of everyday life in Vietnam as endured by one man, from the fall of Hanoi and the collapse of French colonialism to the frenzied evacuation of Saigon. Pham offers a rare portal into a lost world as he chronicles Thong Van Pham’s heartbreaks, triumphs, and bizarre reversals of fortune, whether as a South Vietnamese soldier pinned down by enemy fire, a prisoner of the North Vietnamese under brutal interrogation, or a refugee desperately trying to escape Vietnam after the last American helicopter has abandoned Saigon. This is the story of a man caught in the maelstrom of twentieth-century politics, a gripping memoir told with the urgency of a wartime dispatch by a writer of surpassing talent.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 14:04:46 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

From Andrew X. Pham, the award-winning author of Catfish and Mandala, a son's searing memoir of his Vietnamese father's experiences over the course of three wars. Once wealthy landowners, Thong Van Pham's family was shattered by the tumultuous events of the twentieth century: the festering French occupation of Indochina, the Japanese invasion during World War II, and the Vietnam War. Told in dazzling chapters that alternate between events in the past and those closer to the present, The Eaves of Heaven brilliantly re-creates the trials of everyday life in Vietnam as endured by one man, from the fall of Hanoi and the collapse of French colonialism to the frenzied evacuation of Saigon. Pham offers a rare portal into a lost world as he chronicles Thong Van Pham's heartbreaks, triumphs, and bizarre reversals of fortune, whether as a South Vietnamese soldier pinned down by enemy fire, a prisoner of the North Vietnamese under brutal interrogation, or a refugee desperately trying to escape Vietnam after the last American helicopter has abandoned Saigon.--From publisher description.… (more)

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