One of the Ten Best Books of the Year, Washington Post Book World One of the Los Angeles Times’ Favorite Books of the Year One of the Top Ten National Books of 2008, Portland Oregonian A 2009 Honor Book of the Asian/Pacific American Librarians Association
“Few books have combined the historical scope and the literary skill to give the foreign reader a sense of events from a Vietnamese perspective. . . . Now we can add Andrew Pham’s Eaves of Heaven to this list of indispensable books.”
—New York Times Book Review
“Searing . . . vivid–and harrowing . . . Here is war and life through the eyes of a Vietnamese everyman.”
Once wealthy landowners, Thong Van Pham’s family was shattered by the tumultuous events of the twentieth century: the 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.
Few books have combined the historical scope and the literary skill to give the foreign reader a sense of events from a Vietnamese perspective. Le Ly Hayslip's When Heaven and Earth Changed Places gave us the war through the eyes of a South Vietnamese peasant girl turned sex worker, while Nguyen Qui Duc's Where the Ashes Are told us what it was like to watch his father, a high-ranking official in Hue, be taken captive by the Vietcong. Bao Ninh's autobiographical novel The Sorrow of War gave us the viewpoint of a disillusioned North Vietnamese grunt. And now we can add Andrew Pham's Eaves of Heaven to this list of indispensable books…It is often said that the Vietnamese conception of history is circular rather than linear: the same episodes recur over and over, with only the details altered. The Eaves of Heaven has a similar feel. Thong Van Pham is constantly fleeing and rebuilding in the midst of war, watching world after world vanish, from the feudal estate of his childhood to the Hanoi of the '50s to the Saigon of the '70s. He and his son have done us the extraordinary service of bringing a few pieces of those worlds back again.