When Heaven and Earth Changed Places (movie tie-in)

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It is said that in war heaven and earth change places not once, but many times. When Heaven and Earth Changed Places is the haunting memoir of a girl on the verge of womanhood in a world turned upside down. The youngest of six children in a close-knit Buddhist family, Le Ly Hayslip was twelve years old when U.S. helicopters langed in Ky La, her tiny village in central Vietnam. As the government and Viet Cong troops fought in and around Ky La, both sides recruited children as ...

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When Heaven & Earth Change Places

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It is said that in war heaven and earth change places not once, but many times. When Heaven and Earth Changed Places is the haunting memoir of a girl on the verge of womanhood in a world turned upside down. The youngest of six children in a close-knit Buddhist family, Le Ly Hayslip was twelve years old when U.S. helicopters langed in Ky La, her tiny village in central Vietnam. As the government and Viet Cong troops fought in and around Ky La, both sides recruited children as spies and saboteurs. Le Ly was one of those children.

Before the age of sixteen, Le Ly had suffered near-starvation, imprisonment, torture, rape, and the deaths of beloved family members—but miraculously held fast to her faith in humanity. And almost twenty years after her escape to Ameica, she was drawn inexorably back to the devastated country and family she left behind. Scenes of this joyous reunion are interwoven with the brutal war years, offering a poignant picture of vietnam, then and now, and of a courageous woman who experienced the true horror of the Vietnam War—and survived to tell her unforgettable story.

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What People Are Saying

From the Publisher
"A wonderful, wondrous book by a remarkable woman."
—Amy Tan, author of The Joy Luck Club

"Touching and illuminating . . . lucid, lyrical . . . a searing and human account."
—New York Times Book Review

"Should not be missed by anyone . . . No one who reads it will ever be able to think about the Vietnam War in quite the same way again."
Washington Post

"Riveting and historic . . . engrossing and beautifully told . . . impossible to put down."
San Francisco Chronicle

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780452271685
  • Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 11/28/1993
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 400
  • Sales rank: 190,286
  • Product dimensions: 8.92 (w) x 10.92 (h) x 0.85 (d)

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 5
( 12 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 16 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 6, 2003

    An enlightening new perspective

    This is, in my opinion, one of the most important books that people who have grown up and spent their lives in the US can read about war, because it gives us a first-hand look at something we have never experienced--what it's like to live in a country where war is waged. As the world grows smaller and its countries more interdependent, damage that our government perpetrates elsewhere becomes, ultimately, OUR damage. This is in part because refugees who wash up on our shores become us. Their injuries, losses, ill will and grief become part of the fabric of our country as they do; their triumphs, too, become ours. If we allow our differences to create hostilities abroad, they will come home to roost. We can no longer afford to operate without empathy; those we kill are our neighbors. And so, this is an important book. 'When Heaven and Earth Changed Places' is the autobiography of a woman who scrambles to survive the horrors of war and occupation and, later, emmigration to an overwhelming new world and marriage to a different kind of war victim. It gives us a rare and articulate window into the mind and heart of someone who was both ally and enemy, depending upon what she had to do to follow the unwritten laws of survival. Although it should be mandatory reading for anyone trying to understand the Viet Nam war (or, as the Vietnamese more correctly see it, the American War), it's entirely too fascinating to be consumed like some prescribed bitter medicine. Read it, too, because it is an exciting story, well-told--a tale that is frightening and, ultimately, heartening. The movie wasn't bad, but the book is much better. Susan O'Neill, Viet Nam Veteran and author

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 1, 2013

    It has been 10 years since I first read this book in one of my c

    It has been 10 years since I first read this book in one of my college English courses, and even today, it still follows me as one of the most unforgettable works of literature available.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 8, 2012

    Le Lay Hayslip, the narrator of the book, tells of a story of he

    Le Lay Hayslip, the narrator of the book, tells of a story of her inspiring life from her simple, innocent childhood to an atrocious war (The Vietnam War) that eventually lead up to her chary yet prominent years in early adulthood. This book characterizes the importance of family connections in a town on the central coast of Vietnam known as Kay Ly, where she grew up until she was exiled by the Viet Cong. Through a series of tragic brutalities from each side of the front, the Viet Cong, Republicans, and American GIs, the true abuser portrayed in the book is the whole war itself. This book gives a great perspective of living in a country where war is waged, which is what most us Americans from this generation lack. However, the book is no child’s play when it comes to reading and taking in the vivid sexual scenes; with the majority being rape scenes from soldiers of each front. Depending on one’s desire or prior knowledge of the Vietnam War or/and interest in war itself may determine how much one may like this book, especially from the prologue. The captivation from this book was like a mountain range; a few chapters are enticing and intense then the next few chapters are going down a huge slope with seemingly insignificant information then the building of interest leading the climax starts once again. Unarguably, Hayslip can be found profoundly relatable when it comes to understanding a woman’s want and desire to feel wanted and desired. For women who can get past the misfortunes brought by the war, especially on women, this book is an eye-opener of how a woman from a different part of the world can be found so similar in terms of loving. Subsequently, it is the war that makes Hayslip a strong-willed, independent young woman in her own life. Overall, this enriching book takes you through series of brutality, romance, and forgiveness that is worth every slope!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 7, 2012

    A touching, heartbreaking story of a woman¿s escape from the Vie

    A touching, heartbreaking story of a woman’s escape from the Vietnam War. When Heaven and Earth Changed Places is a beautiful memoir of one woman’s haunting struggle throughout the Vietnam war. Le Ly Hayslip reminisces about the suffering, torture, and heartbreak that she encountered when her village of Ky La was being raided by soldiers. She went through life changing catalysts that shaped her into a strong, bold woman all through adulthood. Many years after the war, she returned to Vietnam to discover that some things have changed for the better, and for the worse. This novel was a great read, and probably one of the most touching things I have ever read. The two different perspectives within the same chapters followed the same theme, which I loved. There were many connections from the past and the future. Important themes I discovered in the novel were family roles, moving on from tragedy, and most importantly family relationships and dependence on each other. I also loved the prologue, where Le Ly dedicates this to any war veterans, or people looking for answers about the Vietnam war, and she hopes it will change what people stereotype or generalize about war. I recommend this book to anyone interested in stories about overcoming hardships and perseverance. However, I did not expect this book to be as graphic as it was. There were many disturbing scenes involving Le Ly being violated by men and tortured by police officers. Since these scenarios happen frequently in the book, I would not recommend it to anyone not in high school yet. Overall, When Heaven and Earth Changed places is a moving story that will change one’s view on war victims and will make people aware about what really happened behind the scenes in Vietnam during the war. My rating for this novel is four stars out of five (very good).

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  • Posted September 11, 2011

    I Also Recommend:

    A touching story that will capture the heart and keep it!

    When Heaven and earth Changed Places was a fantastic outlook on the Vietnam War that was never seen before with Le Ly Hayslip (the author) having a deep connection with her people and those who fought in the war on both the sides. The book shows the process of the life that she had during the war and the hardships of having to work for families as a nanny or maid and the hardships the war brought on her family especially those who she was especially close with. The story is rich in detail about war scenes, prisons, and the many traumatic events she went through, for example: getting raped, and being hit by her husband. The story goes from past to present throughout which shows the happiness she finds in her peace and her travels through the mysteries of the world. In my opinion, this book was one of the most enticing and emotional books I have read, truly it made me cry because of the deep emotion that the biography gave me about a war I never even heard about. Le Ly Hayslip uses words to describe what most citizens would have trouble saying, never mind about writing down for millions to read. I believe she uses the past and present to show that the world can change just by how hard you work and that everyone should read this memorable book because of the effect it had on just me and many others ( I am not a fan of non-fiction books, this was my favorite by far) by giving me a new outlook on many people suffered that were not mentioned this included both sides. Major messages in this book are about how if you give life all your effort you can make it whatever you want it to be, it just takes hard work. Also, how family is important even if the family started falling apart, Le Ly had a family that fought against her country that she currently lives in (America) but she still went back to her roots no matter the risk because her family, in her mind, was worth it. Overall this story was touching to the heart and to the mind, and personally it was one of the best reads and I have read many books. This is an eye opener book that I believe any American or Vietnamese should read to really get the full effect of how much people actually cared during the war. This book could give many people peace knowing one day that there won't be war and they will be in their own heaven of sorts. This book is something I will read again and is perfect for teenagers and adults, graphic for children but empowering read. I hope everyone has the chance to from War to Peace.

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  • Posted April 28, 2010

    When Heaven and Earth changed places is the gripping narrative of a Vietnamese woman's journey from war to peace. Le Ly Hayslip, the author and protagonist in this book grew up a young peasant girl in Ky Lai, central Vietnam.

    This story follows Le Ly Hayslip as she experiences the War in Vietnam as a young peasant girl caught up in the middle, figuratively and literally ( as she lives along the fault line that divides the north and south provinces) of two opposing factions and who is forced to serve both VC and South Vietnamese nationalist causes. Through her flight to safety in America, and her subsequent return to her homeland after the chaos of war has torn through her world, Hayslip has a firsthand account of how the conflict in Vietnam unfolded with her right in the middle of it, an innocent young woman whose life is delineated and forever changed. From her birth as the youngest daughter in a poor hamlet being fed buffalo milk to survive, Hayslip's ordeals and understanding of the effects of a horrible war grow progressively worse as she is drawn into the maelstrom of destructiveness that tears her life apart.
    Le Lay Hayslip, a young peasant girl is a key witness of circumstance. She deserves nothing that she is subjected to, and her story is as much a story of survival as it is an account of a bloody and savage conflict that tore the countryside and her people apart. Born into Ky Lai, a small village right in between the opposing South and North Vietnamese, Hayslip is used to a life of struggle. She is born the youngest daughter to a poor farming family where her own mother has to feed her buffalo milk to give her enough sustenance to survive. She is also at a disadvantage because in her culture, as is custom, sons are more prized than daughters and the only thing she can hope for is to marry someone whom her family approves of, more of a business deal than anything to do with love or choice. But even this one prospect is torn away from Le Ly Hayslip because of the opposing North and south conflicts. A pure and innocent example of the collateral damage of war, Le Ly Hayslip's province is bombed by American planes, killing some of relatives and neighbors of the community. Shortly after, the Vietcong come into her village to suppress any republican sentiments and to promote themselves as well as recruit soldiers to their cause. Hayslip's village's stance becomes pro-VC, mostly because they have infiltrated and established their dominance over the area. At a young age, she is exposed to the hardships of life in a rural community, subject to whichever stronger group chooses to suppress them. As a child, Hayslip is witness to the horrible degradation, torture and rape of a helpless peasant woman, at the hands of a group of the French Foreign Legion soldiers and so such sentiments run deep within her. When the VC come to "protect their village" Hayslip described them as, "The Vietminh went out of their way, at first, to behave like villagers and not like soldiers. They did not rob and pillage like the mercenary Moroccans [French Foreign Legionnaires]" (Hayslip 19). The poor girl is not given a choice, and at the age of 13 is forced to be a runner/lookout for the Vietcong.
    Le Ly Hayslip's account of what she experienced and saw is chronologically back and forth in her book. She often reminisces to her time spent in America with her sons from her first marriage after she fled Vietnam as she had no safe haven with either side.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 27, 2008

    A reviewer

    This was an amazing book. I highly recommend it to anyone looking for a great book. I could hardly put it down and stayed up late at night just to know what's going to happen to her next. Le Ly went through a lot of hard and most of the time terrible things but was able to put her past into a outstandiong book!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 7, 2007

    Can't wait to re-read it!

    Truly, this is one incredible read! An outstanding piece of work that I read many years ago and that I couldn't more highly recommend to anyone looking for a gripping, eye-opening, captivating non-fictional journey into what transpired in Viet Nam. In America we were, naturally, concerned with our troops but this was written from the perspective of a young Vietnamese girl and what she was going through over there at the time. Unquestionably, I would rate it an A+. I'm almost ashamed of my own prior insensitivity and ignorance as to how war affects people. This book had me choking back tears. They were literally streaming down my face as the pages I was turning brought the striking details of Viet Nam into my own bedroom. For the first time in my life I began to consider the concept of war through the eyes of another. As a reader I experienced the depth of the author's pain and was in total empathy with her courageous and incredible struggles. I am delighted that my book club has selected 'When Heaven and Earth Changed Places' for one of our books to read in 2007 and I look forward to re-experiencing all of the wonderful emotionality of Le Ly Haislip's incredible journey from North Vietnam to California and back again to her homeland.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 31, 2005

    Wow! A must read! AWESOME!

    Heart wrenching and emotional, riveting and heart breaking. I loved this book. It has left an emotionl mark on my heart. This story will leave you different after you read it--guaranteed!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 5, 2005

    A 'must' read book

    This was required reading for a college course I took and it was, by and far, one of the very best books to bring the Vietnam 'conflict' to light from the perspective of the individual and collective people of Vietnam. It opens the reader to the culture, time, dynamics, politics and struggles of all people in that beautiful little country.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 4, 2001

    Eye Opening Book

    This truely was one of the best books I have ever read. My brother gave me this book to read after he had read it for a college woman's literature class. I never read a biography before but this book has sparked my interest to read more books on others lives. It has an excellent portrayal of the cruelity of war from all sides. I very much enjoyed it!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 6, 2001

    This was a really great story

    This book is about a vietnamese girl's life during the vietnam war. This book showed me that there is two sides to every story. I also discovered the horrible reality of war and that the soldiers of both sides were only a few years older than me and after awhile they forgot what they were fighting for. I no longer look at the US as all good and the Viet Cong as all bad. There is no true enemy in war than the war itself.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 5, 2000

    A War That¡¯s Not Over

    'Le Ly Hayslip had always been in-between south and north, east and west, peace and war, Vietnam and America. It has been her life and fate to be in-between Heaven and Earth.' When Heaven and Earth Changed Places is a story of a woman from a small village in Vietnam called Ky La. The author, Le Ly Hayslip, is just another victim of the Vietnam War. The brutality of the war created separation in her family, destruction of an individual, and distrust among formerly warm-hearted neighbors. She was born the youngest of six children in a close-knit Buddhist family. Throughout her childhood, the peace breaks into pieces due to the war. Le Ly, as a little girl, serves the Viet Cong fighters, and she is honored for courageously surviving tortures in prison when captured by the government. Soon, her honor disappears. Le Ly is accused of associating with the government, and the Viet Cong starts to turn their backs on Le Ly. Her life begins twisting. Before the age of sixteen, Le Ly suffers from near-starvation, imprisonment, torture, rape, and the deaths of beloved family members. To avoid worse situations, she moves to another city, where she meets her first love and works as a maid, a dealer in the black market, a waitress, etc. She also meets several American boy friends, who disappoint and abuse Le Ly. At age 20, she marries an older American man who can provide she and her son with a better life in the United States. After twenty years, Le Ly comes back to Vietnam to visit her family. The family reunion is carried out amidst worries and fear rather than joy and happiness. Many years after the war ends, an unspoken war still exists; people don¡¯t trust each other and everyone has to be careful not to give a bad image to government officers. Filled with tears, Le Ly leaves Ky La promising to help Vietnam to heal from the war. The author explains details dramatically so readers will not lose interest. Through the author¡¯s own experiences, she portrays the brutal consequences of the war. The book focuses on the individual¡¯s emotional and physical outcomes caused by the war. If one wants to know the reality of what the effects of the war are, this book is definitely recommended. As an Asian, I was attracted to the story of the life of this Vietnamese woman. As I read, I found there was something very extraordinary about her life that stirred my emotions. To the public, this story is well known through the movie, 'Heaven and Earth.' As the movie was enjoyed by numerous moviegoers, the book will be appreciated by people of all ages, especially those who are interested in the Vietnam War.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 5, 2009

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 8, 2011

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 25, 2008

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