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Dragon House

Dragon House

4.5 30
by John Shors

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From the critically acclaimed author of Beneath a Marble Sky and Beside a Burning Sea—the new novel from “a master storyteller,”* set in contemporary Asia.

From John Shors comes an unforgettable story of redemption set in modern-day Vietnam.

Dragon House tells the tale of Iris and Noah—two Americans who, as a way of healing their


From the critically acclaimed author of Beneath a Marble Sky and Beside a Burning Sea—the new novel from “a master storyteller,”* set in contemporary Asia.

From John Shors comes an unforgettable story of redemption set in modern-day Vietnam.

Dragon House tells the tale of Iris and Noah—two Americans who, as a way of healing their own painful pasts, open a center to house and educate Vietnamese street children. In the slums of a city that has known little but war for generations, Iris and Noah befriend children who dream of nothing more than of going to school, having a home, and being loved. Learning from the poorest of the poor, the most silent of the unheard, Iris and Noah find themselves reborn. Resounding with powerful themes of suffering, sacrifice, friendship, and love, Dragon House brings together East and West, war and peace, and celebrates the resilience of the human spirit.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Shors's third novel tells an absorbing story weakened by melodrama, sentimentality and exposition. After promising her dying father, a Vietnam War veteran, to take care of his shelter for street children in Ho Chi Minh City, American writer Iris agrees to take along her childhood friend Noah, now a depressed veteran who lost his leg in Iraq. In Vietnam, they find the shelter has drawn an appealing cast of Americans and Vietnamese, all seeking escape and salvation, including two children exploited by a brutal drug addict, and an impoverished old woman whose granddaughter is dying of cancer. Though interesting, most characters never overcome Shors's insistence on telling, rather than showing, their inner lives ("he hurt and hated so much"). Melodrama and mawkish foreshadowing ("I'm taking the risks... and everything's going to be just the way it was meant to be") will prove familiar to anyone who's watched a TV movie. Though frustrating, this is the kind of novel (provocative, polarizing, exotic) that should stir book group discussion.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Kirkus Reviews
The daughter of a troubled Vietnam veteran fulfills her late father's vow to found a center for homeless children in Saigon. Iris, a Chicago book reviewer, journeys to the metropolis now officially known as Ho Chi Minh City to complete work on the shelter/school/orphanage, set to open in a month. She's accompanied by former neighbor Noah, an Iraq war veteran maimed by an IED in Baghdad. His mother has begged Iris to take Noah along, hoping the trip will wean him from the heavy drinking mixed with painkillers he relies on to blunt his anger at the pointless conflict that cost him a leg. Thien, a young Vietnamese woman employed by the center, intuits that Noah can best heal by focusing on helping others, and there are certainly plenty of street children who need aid. Sahn, a beat cop who has hated Americans since he fought against them during the war, needles Iris for protection money; he knows that once his failing eyesight is discovered, his policing career will be over. Though Sahn is corrupt, he and Iris cooperate to shelter Tam, a seven-year-old suffering from leukemia. In the novel's most riveting sections, an abandoned boy and girl, Minh and Mai, have been enslaved by petty gangster Loc, who cut off Minh's hand to enhance his beggarly appeal. Mai sells fans, and Minh wallops tourists in games of Connect Four; their earnings go directly into Loc's opium pipe. The rescue of Mai and Minh belatedly transforms the book into a thriller, complete with camera-ready scooter chase scenes, as Noah and Thien pursue Loc. Although Shors (Beside a Burning Sea, 2008, etc.) excels at plotting, and his Saigon street cred is impeccable, the characterization is weak. Thien is impossibly angelic, Noah'sredemption feels forced and Iris quickly fades into the background. Fictional characters serve mainly as mouthpieces for an admittedly noble mission (portions of the novel's proceeds will support a Vietnamese children's foundation); nonfiction might have better served the author's purpose.

Product Details

Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.40(w) x 8.20(h) x 0.90(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

Related Subjects

Meet the Author

John Shors traveled extensively throughout Asia after graduating from Colorado College in 1991, living for several years in Japan, where he taught English, and then trekking across the continent, visiting ten countries and climbing the Himalayas. More recently, Mr. Shors worked as a newspaper reporter in his hometown, Des Moines, Iowa, before entering public relations and moving to Boulder, Colorado. Beneath a Marble Sky is his first novel.

Brief Biography

Boulder, Colorado
Date of Birth:
March 4, 1969
Place of Birth:
Des Moines, Iowa
B.A. in English, Colorado College, 1991

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Dragon House 4.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 29 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I really enjoyed this story, the characters were so real and the plot was excellent. After having visited VietNam, I enjoyed Shors' descriptions of various places I visited. This is the third book of John Shors' that I've read and I've enjoyed all of them. I would definately recommend it for a book club.
IsabellaRenae More than 1 year ago
Set in Asia, Dragon House is a story of redemption and healing. The story takes place in modern day Vietnam and tells the story of two Americas, Iris and Noah, who give of themselves by teaching Vietnamese street children in unfavorable areas as a means to heal from their own pain. Iris and Noah ultimately give the children friendship, educations, shelter and love. The process fulfills the dreams of children and breathes new life into Iris and Noah. Dragon House is a story of suffering, sacrifice, courage, friendship and love. It brings the human qualities of us all together and lifts the spirit. This is the second novel I have read by John Shors and he does not disappoint. His novels are delivered at a pace that requires the reader to acknowledge and understand the impact of our actions, thoughts, lives and the world around us. This novel is no different. It is an emotional journey as you connect with Iris and Noah as well as the children they aim to help in a country that offers little to no support. John brings depth and understanding to the story while easily passing the same information to the reader with intrigue and artistry. The characters are well developed and realistic. Iris's story deals with her fathers' ambition and plan to help the children of Vietnam. Though he is unable to complete this task, Iris chooses to see his plan to completion as a way to honor the memory of her father and attempt to heal. Noah, who has seen the results of war, joins her in her task, having seen the trauma of war on a nation that has so little. The book attempts to bring about the timeless struggles of human nature [good &evil;] in a new light. Dragon House was a wonderful novel, thought slow in pace. It challenged me as I read it because I deeply connected with these characters. Shors makes it easy to feel the emotions and pain of the young children but rewards you with the happiness and relief they also feel. I connected with Iris and Noah who both attempt to heal hurt from their past by positively changing the future of others. I wondered if I would be strong enough to give up my job in order to carry out the wishes of my father's life. The novel transforms suffering into joy, hope into reality, and friendship into love and leaves a lasting impression on the reader. Simply put, John's novels command attention while delivering a wonderful story with deep insight and emotional exploration.
jennbookshelf More than 1 year ago
Iris Rhodes, daughter of a Vietnam Vet , made a promise with her father before he died to ensure that the haven he built for the neglected street children of Ho Chi Minh City to be completed. This children's center was built using his own sweat and tears as a means to relieving some of the grief he felt as a result of the war. She abandons her job as a book reviewer for a local newspaper to travel to Vietnam to help fulfill her father's dying wish. Iris takes with her Noah Woods, a friend from her youth. Noah is a severely wounded Iraqi war veteran. He lost more than just his leg in the war. He is full of anger and resentment, but the children of Ho Chi Minh City force him to see past his own anger and work to create a better life for these children. Iris and Noah have a hard road ahead of them. Not everyone approves of the center, which will ultimately school the young girls of Ho Chi Minh City. They are forced to pay off a local authority so they can receive protection from the local scum who benefit from the hard work of the local street children. My heart couldn't help but break when I read of the street children. There are three that are focused on: Mai, Minh, and Tam. Mai and Minh live in a basket under a bridge. Minh has only one hand and earns money by playing games of Connect Four with tourists. Minh doesn't speak, so his sister, Mai, acts as his voice. The majority of their earnings goes to a local addict who provides "protection" from the other street dwellers. Ironically, they are severely beaten each time they are unable to provide this money. Tam is a young girl suffering from the final stages of childhood leukemia. Her grandmother, Qui, carries her around on her back, doing the best she can to provide for Tam in her last days. Tam's cancer could have been treatable had she seen a doctor early enough but unfortuntely she did not seek medical attention unti the cancer had spread to her bones. They both look forward to a reality in which there is no pain and in which Tam can run around and play like a "normal" child. Readers of all ages will find a character they can connect with, and Shors writing style is light enough that readers in their teen years could easily follow it. It would be wonderful if this novel could be considered required reading for junior high or high school students. It portrays the vast history of the war with Vietnam and the results of the war on the local people. While it definitely describes the not so cheerful aftermath of war, it also details the hope and resilience of the people. Shors did an outstanding job of developing the characters. The each have some type of obstacle they are trying to overcome, whether it be a physcial disability, emotional, or both. It is obvious that Shors did an extensive amount of research for this novel. The vivid descriptions of the city and the squalor in which the street children lived allow the reader to feel as though they are a part of the setting. I have a completely different outlook on the world after reading this. It's easy to get dragged down by the problems our own nation is experiencing, but after reading this, I learn there are people on the other side of the world suffering more than I could ever imagine. One should not attempt to read this book without a box of tissues handy, for I was crying from the first few pages. But this should not dissuae you from reading this novel; I feel it is a book that everyone should
tokemise More than 1 year ago
Dragon House by John Shors is a wonderful story of healing, redemption and love. I loved this book. It is wonderfully written and touched me personally on many levels and made me cry at least twice. It is my new favorite read for this summer. Dragon House is the story of many people but the main character who starts the story and brings them all together is Iris. Iris is a book reviewer whose father has been largely absent from her life physically and emotionally. A veteran of the Vietnam war he struggled the rest of his life with what happened to him there. Years later he returns to Vietnam trying to do some good by opening a center for street children. He dies before he is able to finish the center and have it open. Iris decides to go to Vietnam and finish her father's work but she doesn't go alone. Noah is a childhood friend of Iris, who is a wounded Iraq war veteran. He has lost one of his legs and all his hope and faith in the world and people. Once a vibrant and active man he can no longer do the things he took for granted and tries to lessen his pain with alcohol and pills. A desperate plea from his mother gets Iris to take him with her to Vietnam. Noah has no hope of finding anything there that will help him but goes to make his mother feel better. Once they are in Vietnam the author's use of description made me feel like I was there too. It is clear in the writing that John Shors knows about the places and culture first hand. I can picture it in my mind and almost hear the sounds and smell the smells. It is here that we meet the rest of the characters in this story. They are unforgettable. Thien is the assistant at the center and she will help the Americans in more ways then they ever imagine. Full of hope, love and joy she teaches them many things by her example. Mai and Minh are street children who must hustle tourists in order to make a living, they live under a bridge and have only each other. They have lived through things most of us can't even imagine. Tam is also a street child but she has her loving Grandmother to care for her. Their story is so poignant it will change you and you will never forget it. All these very different lives are brought together in a story that will pull at your heart strings and make you want to do something good and become a better person. The pace of the writing is perfect and the descriptions made me feel like I was there. I couldn't put this book down, I had to find out what happened to all the characters I had come to love and care about. This book touched me on a very personal level because I have been trying to help children in need for many years. I have read about street children in other countries and have always wished I could do something big, like opening a center or a home for them. I can relate to Iris on that level and also because she loved books and was a book reviewer. She comes to realize the true value of her books during her work at the center. Readers will get a feel for what it must be like for these poor children by reading this book and will hopefully be inspired to do something to help. I know I am. Ultimately this is a book about hope and never giving up. Learning that you can always be better and do good no matter how small a thing you think it is. Mostly I came away from reading this book feeling like it was all about love. It's a wonderful book and I recommend it to everyone.
Casperette More than 1 year ago
Every once in a while a book comes along that is written so well that the words wrap around you and carry you through page by page. This is such a book. Dragon House is a fiction book themed around Vietnam street children. Having worked with street kids in Honduras since 2004, I was amazed to see the likeness between these two areas of the world. John Shors captures the street children' life in his words, words that at times hit so close to home that I could see and smell what he was describing. I was able to get a real sense of Vietnam and feel the hope that comes with a place that works towards a world without children living on the street. Well written, a real page turner. I will definitely be looking for more books from this author.
bridget3420 More than 1 year ago
The children of Vietnam have a place to turn to instead of living on the streets. Two Americans, Iris and Noah, have created a home for these children and have taken it upon themselves to teach this group of under privileged youth. Iris is taken with these children who have also taught her a thing or two. This is an uplifting novel that captivated me. I couldn't help but be drawn in by these characters. John is an amazing writer with endless talent.
ccqdesigns More than 1 year ago
I first encountered John Shors when I read his novel Beneath a Marble Sky. This new novel, Dragon House, has stepped up John's impressive writing skills another notch. Dragon House is a love story; the love of a daughter for her father, a sister for her brother, a grandmother for her granddaughter and soldiers for their country. And it is a story of the courage it takes to follow your heart and protect the ones you love. The Story: After Iris' father dies, she decides to go to Vietnam and complete his dream of opening a center for street children there even though he was absent for most of her life and she is still very angry. He was always trying to run from his demons and she felt from her. Iris' good friend Noah is just home from Iraq and running from demons of his own and agrees to go with Iris. What follows is a painful, slow process of acclimation to a new country, to finding out whom her father really was and if this is really what Iris wants to do. In the process Iris finds Mai and Minh, a brother and sister living under a bridge that are forced to work for an opium addict, Qui and Tam, a grandmother and granddaughter living on the streets and Sahn the beat cop and Vietnam veteran who hates Americans. My Take: John Shors description of Vietnam, of Saigon and its people brought all my senses alive while reading. I could see and touch and smell the market and the city streets. I could hear the traffic noises and all the scooters zipping past. I could feel the touch of Mai as she brushed up against me and asked if I would like to buy a fan. And my heart went out to all the street children and all the empty stomachs and honest people that try every day to help. And I cried in anger at every crooked official and opium addict and street vendor that expected a bribe. And it brought back all the memories. I have been to these countries, I have seen these children, and I have held their hands and bought their fans and laughed with them and prayed for them. And all I can say is that John Shors has written an amazing book that I highly recommend.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Lorelei_Prideaux More than 1 year ago
I had to read this for class and found it to be a little bit of a slow read. While I found the characters to have very real and strong personalities and descriptions I felt that the ending in particular was a little cliche. When Shors visited my college and elaborated a little further about his writing process I came to respect his work a little further. I feel this is the weakest of his other books. I think this would be a good read for those who are in the 6-8 grade range. I think I would have enjoyed it much more if I was younger.
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Chaim Starkey More than 1 year ago
I had to read this for a class, and I have to say I really got into it. The writing is really good, and the characters are easy to connect with. I would definitely recommend this book!
Humbee More than 1 year ago
John Shors has become one of my favorite authors of the 21st century. I believe he is the voice of our recent past, and a voice of the humanity in all of us as we struggle to keep what is good and moral against a tide of selfishness and instability in our world. Mr. Shors is an author of exceptional capabilities with characterization conveying feelings and angst that will so touch your heart that you feel actually set within the place and time with his characters. Having lived through the Viet Nam War as a child of the '60's, I found this book especially interesting. I have not been able to read about the War, per se. It was a time of loss and anger and confusion for me. A time I just haven't cared to scrutinize. But, this book gave me a way of "looking" that was thoughtful, caring and healing. Through the eyes of Iris, the daughter of a Viet Nam veteran left with post traumatic stress syndrome and memories he could only heal by going back to create a home for street children; we see, hear, smell and feel the thriving, messy, whirling, beautiful, dangerous and noisy place called Ho Chi Minh City -- formerly Siagon. I found many of the things surprisingly familiar to me...through pictures that were flashed daily on the t.v. when our boys were over there, I suppose. I could see through Shors writings the brightness of colors, smell the food, hear the horn blasts, and shiver at the sufferings. John Shors didn't miss a beat. Iris goes to Viet Nam to continue her father's dream and to help the street children, bringing with her a life-long friend...a now wounded, permanently handicapped vet. of the Iraqi War, who is suffering and suicidal. This character boldly gives the reader insight into all veterans returning with injuries of body, mind and spirit from the horrors of war. Along with an eternally hopeful Vietnamese woman, they work to complete the Center for Street Children that will become the catalyst for their own salvations. Through their work, inspiration, and close companionships with a little group of starving, abused and critically ill children, Iris and Noah find a new place of rest for all. And, that included me. I highly recommend this book for all and everyone. John Shors is an author who needs to be read because he will be one to make a mark in these coming years. He's an American writer of note and value. I also recommend this book because it's good for those of us who have come through the Viet Nam War (a war not successful and not popular with the American people) and are going through the Iraqi/Afghani War...another one which may have a similar outcome. We might find some solace in the fact that we will survive. Timely and healing.... please read this book for many reasons. Your Bookish Dame
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
hockeygal4ever More than 1 year ago
It is rare when an author can bring tears to your eyes within the first few pages of a book, but once again John Shors has the ability to do so with ease in his newest novel Dragon House. This amazingly poignant novel brings to life a world most of us will never know, that of the lives of the people of Vietnam. How rare it is to find an author so capable of bringing a world of diverse characters to life in one's mind so easily, yet Shors does so with such ease that you don't even realize how intimate you have become with each of the characters until you close the book shut. The story is one of absolute beauty and somehow you find that beauty in a country that normally would most likely be considered ugly. The beauty of the country comes out with each of the characters themselves, from those native to the country to those who are strangers brought there by different and often unknown missions. I personally found the depth of the characters unremarkable. You get to know each of the characters as if you have had the opportunity to creep into their inner-person, often finding things you would never assume to find. Sahn, the former soldier turned police officer, so crast and angry yet so full of love for his country that he cannot help but allow those he sees as intruders do their job in helping the children of the country he loves so much. You start off disliking the man, hating his anger and end up realizing why his anger is so deep and how it's truly just a facade to protect his own well-being. The children in the story will steal your heart, from the sickly Tam to the lost souls of Mai and Mahn. Your heart is stolen by the children as much as it does the main characters & adults of the story itself; leaving you aching for each of their souls. The main characters are delightful. Sweet Thien, filled with such love, kindness and tenderness that she brings such attributes out in even the least likely characters in the book. Thien sees the beauty most overlook in her country and knows how to bring that beauty into the eyes of those she is with. Noah, angry with what life has handed him tries to find answers in so many different places, including the bottom of a bottle, only to find them in the most unassuming of places. He overcomes anger, pain and hurt by finding his inner soul he has lost as he takes on a project that becomes his reason for living. He is truly determined & even in the highest of pain he cannot be stopped now that he has a purpose. Iris, unsure why she's there until her heart is shown the "real" Vietnam by Thien, hopes to pursue the dreams of the man she still isn't sure about, her own father. Often frightened of the unknown ways of this strange country she aspires to bring a huge project to life that her father had begun but died before he could finish. So many obstacles in the way but such need and determination make it something she knows she must accomplish. These 3 main characters alone will touch your heart. The children and people of this land will touch your heart even deeper. The book truly is as strong as it's characters. Once again, another absolutely excellent & profound piece of work written by John Shors! It is honestly "yet another" of the beautiful masterpieces he seems to be able to put together for his readers. If you're in need of a vacation to a land you would normally never get a chance to visit, this may just be your ticket.
NightRainbow More than 1 year ago
The first thing that captured my attention with Dragon House was that it is not scene, character nor plot-driven, all three play an equal role in this book. As you read, you can hear the scooters as they pass, smell the fish at the market and see the bright colors in every direction. Within seconds, you are transported into the the midst of modern-day Vietnam. You not only hear the lilting voice of Thien as she goes about her work, you feel her contentment. The emotional pain Noah suffers tears at your soul and your world suddenly grows dim and dark as you travel with Sahn on his beat. Feeling Qui's helplessness as she watches her beloved Tam grow weaker drains your energy and you want to run as Mai sees Loc walking toward her. This is not a book you can sit and read cover to cover, for the emotion is so strong you need to stop and regain your composure. The amount of research that has gone into Dragon House is greater than anything else I have ever read. I have read autobiographies that didn't seem as real and did not give me the feeling that I was living the story. John Shor has a talent that does not come from a book, but one that can only be said to be part of his very essence. He brings his setting into your living room and his characters into your mind. I could not decide who was the main character in Dragon House. Every character was so real and played their part so well, and all were equally important in making the book come alive. If I had to give a name to the central character, it would be Love. Each character fights his or her own demon, whether in the form of another person, a situation or an internal one. In the end, it is mere love, in all its many forms that allows the individuals to move beyond those demons and see the beauty in life. Each learns that sometimes the very beauty and peace they seek is there inside them the whole time. John Shors wrote a book about the street children in Vietnam--he wrote a blueprint to love for the world.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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DarcyO More than 1 year ago
Author John Shors brings to life the street children of Vietnam in his poignant novel, "Dragon House." He introduces readers to Iris Rhodes, a young professional from Chicago and daughter of a Vietnam veteran. When Iris' father is dying from cancer, she tells him she will finish his dream of building a center for the street children in Saigon where the children will be safe and go to school. Iris is joined in her mission by Noah, an old schoolmate wounded in the Iraq War. Shors beautifully describes the Vietnam landscape and its people. His street children characters are filled with hope and cheer. Their plight is so sad, yet they can find joy in just playing on a teeter-totter. Readers learn that young girls living on the street sell fans to earn a meager living; older girls are left with no choice but to sell themselves. A center for girls will change everything for these young Vietnamese girls. I found "Dragon House" to be an engrossing and deeply satisfying novel. I rooted for the children in all their endeavors; I felt their pain and their joy. I highly recommend "Dragon House" to all readers.
SarahinFlorida More than 1 year ago
This is a special, special book. It moved me so much. It brought a new world (today's Vietnam, street children, etc.) to life for me. I finished this book yesterday and am already recommending it to all of my friends. It's simply beautiful.
LoisJobFinder More than 1 year ago
Dragon House is one of my favorite novels, and I've read hundreds and hundreds of books. This is a beautiful story, so touching. It taught me things. It opened my heart.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
a truly great read ... very enjoyable and enlightening ... I found the charatures relatable and beliveable ... and the story line intreging ... a page truner
Zia01 More than 1 year ago
When I first got this book I have to be honest I did not think it was going to be my kind of read. It is something I don't usually read. Wow was I wrong! I loved this book! It has a slow buildup at the beginning but once it gets going it sucks you right in. I read it in 3 sittings with the majority of it in one sitting. I finished up the last 40 pages this morning and would've finished last night but I couldn't hold my eyes open any longer. In fact I think a nap is calling my name today. It was that good. The characters are well thought and and written down that I could practically visualize what they look like. Iris, trying so hard to complete her dad's dream of building a center for street children in Vietnam. Noah a returning Iraq war vet fighting off some terrible demons. Thien the sweet, full of life worker at the center. Then you have the street children and other Vietnamese people. Qui and her terminally ill grand daughter Tam who just breaks your heart. Mai and Minh two young street children so tough and full of life. Loc the thug who controls them. Sahn the cop who surprises you with his love for the children of Vietnam. The story pulled me in, broke my heart, made me cry and lifted me up all rolled into one. I can't say enough about this book. If you are on the fence go get it. It's really worth it.
grumpydan More than 1 year ago
"Dragon House" is a courageous story of Vietnamese street children and the American woman (following her dying father's last wish) to try and help them. John Shors' novel is so well written that you feel that you are there experiencing what these characters are going through; not only the pain, but also the love and compassion. I learned what life is like in a country that I have never visited. This is a book worth reading.