Eaves of Heaven: A Life in Three Wars [NOOK Book]

Overview

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 ...
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Eaves of Heaven: A Life in Three Wars

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Overview

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.

From the Hardcover edition.

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Editorial Reviews

Matt Steinglass
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.
—The New York Times
Martha Sherrill
In 1802, a war hero named Hao Pham was awarded a vast tract of land in the fertile flatlands in the north of Vietnam. He'd won several battles that had led to the unification of his country. For this, he became the lord of a large manor with thousands of peasants and lived out his days in supreme comfort. A string of male descendants succeeded him, each becoming richer and more powerful than the last. Under French colonial rule, the Pham estates expanded further. The Eaves of Heaven describes the gradual undoing of this vast and elaborate dynasty, the cataclysmic disintegration of a country, and the series of dramatic misfortunes that befell the great-great-great-grandson of Hao. Poised to inherit everything, Thong Pham instead lost it all, as Andrew X. Pham, his son, recounts in this gorgeously written book. But this is not ultimately a story of loss and upheaval, nor is it simply a retelling of Vietnam's war-torn history from a Vietnamese point of view. Many other books have ably covered that ground. The Eaves of Heaven is something entirely new: an effort to recapture the moments of beauty and transcendence that emerged from these events.
—The Washington Post
Publishers Weekly

In a narrative set between the years of 1940 and 1976, Pham (Catfish and Mandala) recounts the story of his once wealthy father, Thong Van Pham, who lived through the French occupation of Indochina, the Japanese invasion during WWII, and the Vietnam War. Alternating between his father's distant past and more recent events, the narrative take readers on a haunting trip through time and space. This technique lends a soothing, dreamlike quality to a story of upheaval, war, famine and the brutality his father underwent following a childhood of privilege ("And that strange year, the last of the good years, all things were granted. Heaven laid the seal of prosperity upon our land. We were blessed with the most bountiful harvest in memory"). For those not familiar with Vietnamese history, Pham does an admirable job of recounting the complex cast of characters and the political machinations of the various groups vying for power over the years. In the end, he also gracefully delivers a heartfelt family history. (June)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Library Journal

Pham, author of the highly acclaimed memoir Catfish and Mandala, returns with a memoir of his father's life in Vietnam from the father's youth under French colonialism through his release from a Vietcong reeducation camp in 1976. Pham alternates between past events and those closer to the present, re-creating the ebb and flow of life's hopes and realities as the boy became a man. Born into wealth and privilege, Pham's father, Thong von Pham, would later lament as a draftee in the South Vietnamese Army that "hubris brought me down a difficult path when wisdom would have led me toward comfort and wealth." Counseled by his mother "don't be quick to kill or be killed for someone else's rhetoric," Thong witnessed wanton cruelty by competing perpetrators. As a child, he watched the horrific murder of a villager by a French Foreign Legionnaire from Algeria, which left him dreaming of joining the resistance against France. He would soon hear the lurid details of the execution of his beloved teacher, accused of being a French informant. Pham deftly paints a compelling portrait of life during three wars in Vietnam (World War II, the Indochina Wars, and the Vietnam War), of his father's inner conflict, and of the difficult choices faced by a people living in fear. This beautifully written book is essential for public and academic libraries.
—Patti McCall

Kirkus Reviews
A Vietnamese family struggles for security as three decades of conflict tear an ancient society to shreds. Pham, who in 1977 emigrated to California with his parents, won plaudits and awards for a memoir about his personal rediscovery of his heritage (Catfish and Mandala: A Two-Wheeled Journey Through the Landscape and Memory of Vietnam, 1999). Now, he deftly recaptures the history of his father, Thong Van Pham. "I have lent his life stories my words," the author explains. "The perspectives and sentiments within are his." The scion of a family whose ancestral landholdings gave it almost feudal sway over its domain in the North, Thong was born into a traditional, clan-structured society that hung by a thread during decades of French colonial rule, interrupted by a savage World War II Japanese occupation that brought mass starvation to Southeast Asia. Though Thong took secret pride in Ho Chi Minh's communist resistance fighters, who drove France from its Asian empire, communist rule brought even less security and comfort to the wealthy Phams than the degrading years of French imperial dominance, and in 1954 his father decreed that the family flee Hanoi for Saigon. In the south, Thong was able to pursue his education, court his first love (he married beneath his station, to his father's disapproval) and begin building his own family. Then came "the American War." Thong was drafted and survived deadly combat. He witnessed the fall of Saigon, was jailed and sent to a Viet Cong "reeducation" camp, from which he was eventually released through the intercession of a Party official, his wife's uncle. War-torn as it was, a lost world lives again in Thong's recollections of the passions of his life:food, friends, family, romance. Personal tragedy and triumph, related with amazing perspective against an epic backdrop. Agent: Jandy Nelson/Manus & Associates
From the Publisher
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

“The ‘I’ of the first-person narration, belonging not the author but to his father; the Edenic lushness of Thong’s childhood memories, intermingled with the wrenching dramas to come: These are the devices of sophisticated fiction, drawing us in while keeping us precariously off balance.”
The Boston Globe

“[A] work of radiance. In some ways, it resembles that supreme recollection of a world lost to history’s depredations, Speak, Memory, in which Vladimir Nabokov summoned up his pre-revolutionary Russian boyhood. . . . [A]s with Tolstoy’s war and peace, darkness, intrinsically formless, gets shape and vividness from the light playing through it. . . . brilliantly chilling . . .”
—Richard Eder, Los Angeles Times

“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.”
New York Times Book Review

“ . . . [A] gorgeously written book . . . [Pham] seems to have risen to a new level of quiet and powerful storytelling. . . . The Eaves of Heaven is built from a series of short vignettes — some sweet, some horrifying — which are not recounted in chronological sequence, but linked in a narrative that darts nimbly across time, lingering on haunting scenes of brutality and violence as well as of beauty and love. . . . It's the absence of chronology that gives Thong's story its magic and depth, and allows it to be sustained by his observations of the ephemeral and the descriptions of unforgettable characters.”
Washington Post Book World

“[A] searing story . . . The remembered images of more tranquil, carefree times are what make the subsequent depictions of wartime terrors and devastation so heartbreaking. . . . Pham has a novelist’s eye for telling details . . .”
Seattle Times

“There are some books that writers shouldn’t read . . . because they are so good they make you despair that you could ever write so well yourself. The Eaves of Heaven by Andrew X. Pham, is such a book. Pham . . . is the best kind of memoirist. . . . He understands a memoir is not really about oneself but about a period, a time, a people. . . . As a memoir, The Eaves of Heaven accomplishes what few polemics do – it is a sweeping personal indictment of war, a reassuring and yet merciless affirmation of the human spirit.”
Portland Oregonian

“Pham deftly paints a compelling portrait of life during three wars in Vietnam . . . This beautifully written books is essential for public and academic libraries.”
Library Journal, starred review

“War-torn as it was, a lost world lives again in Thong’s recollections of the passions of his life: food, friends, family, romance. Personal tragedy and triumph, related with amazing perspective against an epic backdrop.”
Kirkus Reviews, starred review

“World-shaping events that most Americans know merely through schematic maps and historical summaries take on a poignantly human immediacy in this story of one storm-buffeted man: Thong Van Pham, the author’s father. . . . By turns touching and searing, this slice of history—like Pham’s earlier Catfish and Mandala (1999)—deserves a wide readership.”
Booklist, starred review

“Alternating between his father’s distant past and more recent events, the narrative takes readers on a haunting trip through time and space. This technique lends a soothing, dreamlike quality. . . Pham does an admirable job of recounting the complex cast of characters and the political machinations of the various groups vying for power over the years. In the end, he also gracefully delivers a heartfelt family history.”
Publishers Weekly, starred review

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780307409348
  • Publisher: Crown Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 6/3/2008
  • Sold by: Random House
  • Format: eBook
  • Sales rank: 895,974
  • File size: 435 KB

Meet the Author

ANDREW X. PHAM is the author of the memoir Catfish and Mandala (winner of the Kiriyama Pacific Rim Award) and the translator of Last Night I Dreamed of Peace: The Diary of Dang Thuy Tram, published by Harmony in September 2007. He is the recipient of a Whiting Award and lives in Hawaii.

AndrewXPham.com

From the Hardcover edition.

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Table of Contents


Author's Note     xiii
Prologue: Ancestors     1
Leaving Home     5
Father     14
Phan Thiet     19
Mother     28
Dalat Days     32
The Mid-Autumn Festival     41
Sea Grubs     49
Saigon Night     51
Cricket Fight     57
The Recruiter     64
Hoi and I     71
The Draft     80
The Orphan     91
Famine     97
The Famine Soup     99
The Flood     105
The Ambush     107
The Last Magistrate     120
The Democratic Republic of Vietnam     124
The Trap     129
The Algerian     144
The Resistance Fighter     154
The Tet Offensive     164
The Executioner     172
Old Friends     184
The Champagne Bottle     200
The Slave     210
A Lull of Silence     213
Crossing the French Line     220
The Fall of Saigon     226
The Widower     241
The Capture     251
The PeasantGirl     267
Reeducation     276
Farewell, Hanoi     284
The Release     294
Bibliography     299
Acknowledgments     301
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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing 1 – 5 of 3 Customer Reviews
  • Posted December 9, 2008

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    A reviewer

    From 1940 to1976, Viet Nam was in a constant state of war that impacted the people. Andrew X. Pham provides the biography of his father Thong Van Pham, who lived through the three plus decades of war starting with the Japanese invasion of the French occupied region during WW II through the fight for independent from the French and finally the war over the South against the United States. As a child Thong lived an upper crust life being born to a wealthy family. Over the years of war, famine and abuse, the family fortune vanished and consequently the life style. This is a fascinating biography that also serves as a deep look at the history of Viet Nam. The author rotates his father¿s life with recent events that brings a harrowing feel as the reader gains a sense of the outcome resulting from the years of turbulence. Well written, readers will marvel at Mr. Pham¿s capture of the impact of power struggles on everyday people.------- Harriet Klausner

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