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Dragon House by John Shors

Posted by Teddyrose@1 on September 8, 2009
Posted in Books Read in 2009John ShorsVietnam  | 9 Comments

Iris Rhodes is a successful writer in Chicago. She has been trying to heal old wounds between her father and herself, as he lies dying in a hospital. Her father is a Vietnam vet and has been trying to fight his demons by working on a very important project. He is opening up a center for street children in Vietnam. It is one way he feels he can contribute to Vietnam’s healing. Right before her father dies, Iris has made the decision to go to Vietnam to see her dad’s project through to completion.

Iris decides to enlist the help of her childhood friend, Noah. He is a wounded veteran of the Iraq war and his leg has been amputated. Noah is finding it difficult to come to terms with what has happened to him and others in Iraq. His stump causes him a lot of pain, especially when his artificial leg is attached. He has turned to alcohol and pain medication to numb the pain and memories. Iris is hoping that the trip will help him come to terms with himself.

Qui is grandmother and caregiver to Tam, a beautiful little girl who is dying of Leukemia because Qui couldn’t get the money to see a doctor. She finally does get the money but, the cancer has spread into the bones and there is no way to cure it. Qui carries Tam back and forth from their little shanty to the market everyday, where they sell books to scrounge up enough money to eat. Qui often goes without eating and gives Tam all the food, since there is so little.

The story also follows two street children. A little girl, Mai and her friend, a little boy, Minh. An opium addict, Loc cut off one of Minh hands to keep him “loyal”. Minh plays Connect Four with tourists for a dollar a game. Mai and him must pay Loc $5.00 per day or pay the consequences. Often that means that they don’t get to eat. They sleep together in a basket under a bridge. They want to escape the life that they are living.

Once Iris and Noah arrive at the Center, they meet a young woman, Thien. Thien has been helping Iris’s father with the Center. The three of them quickly make friends and get to work. Noah works on making a playground for the kids to play. He hauls around heavy dirt and boards, which cause his stump great pain. He drinks while he works. Both Iris and Noah find inspiration from the poor Vietnamese people, which has profound effect.

Eventually the center is near completion and the first people to live there are Qui and Tam. I’m not going to say anymore due to spoilers. My keyboard is locked on that.

I was so excited when I received an email from John Shors asking if I would review his new book! He has also written two other books, Beneath a Marble Sky and Beside a Burning Sea. Both are historical fiction. I haven’t read Beside a Burning Sea yet but I cannot recommend Beneath a Marble Sky highly enough! It is a must for historical fiction fans. I couldn’t wait to read his new book.

This book is a departure from his other two books, as it is not historical fiction. It is however, a present day story that packs a punch! John Shors does a excellent job tying all of the stories of the different characters together. He weaves the story together like a beautiful tapestry. He makes a point about what life is like for the millions of street children living in Vietnam. He pulls at your heart strings and is not very subtle. I even felt a bit manipulated but the story works. There is a little something for everyone in this book, a budding romance, drama, and suspense. I recommend this book.


Mr. Shors is donating part of the proceeds of this novel to Blue Dragon Children’s Fund. They work with street children in Vietnam and hope to open a center, like the one in the book.

Copyright 2007-2010: All the posts within this blog were originally posted by Teddy Rose and should not be reproduced without express written permission.

A Short Story

This short story comes from Nam Le’s book of short stories titled “The Boat.”This story is based loosely on Nam Le’s life. His young life, as he is not quite 30 years old.

Nam’s family are immigrants from Vietnam. They live in Melbourne Australia, but Nam leaves his job as a lawyer and moves to Iowa to attend a writer’s school. His father, who lives in Sydney Australia has come to visit him. Why, Nam is not sure. Nam has a deadline breathing down his back to write a story and a case of writers block. This is one of the worst possible times his father could have chosen to visit.

Nam’s father was very strict when he was growing up. He was expected to study 10 hours per day, even during summer break. No girlfriends were allowed, period. He has not told his father about his American girlfriend and doesn’t plan too. However, his girlfriend doesn’t seem too concerned about this.

This is a complex story with several themes running through it. There’s the immigrant / ethnic experience, Vietnam war/US atrocities, and love relationships. The central theme in the story is that of the father / son relationship.

With all of these complex issues, I wasn’t convinced that Le would be able to pull this off as a short story. I was pleasantly surprised to see how successful he was. His swift prose runs seamlessly through this story. Could he make it into a novella or novel? In my opinion, yes. However, this is Nam Le’s first book. I would love to see him write a novel in the future, but this will do quite nicely for now! Even better, I have the rest of this book of short stories to read yet.


If you are interested in reading Love and Honour and Pity and Pride and Compassion and Sacrifice by Nam Le, You can read it in its entirety here.

Copyright 2007-2010: All the posts within this blog were originally posted by Teddy Rose and should not be reproduced without express written permission.