In 1968 two young Vietnamese sisters flee to Saigon after their village on the Mekong River is attacked by American forces and burned to the ground. The only survivors of the brutal massacre that killed their family, the sisters struggle to survive but become estranged, separated by sharply different choices and ideologies. Mai ekes out a living as a GI bar girl, but Tâm’s anger festers, and she heads into jungle terrain to fight with the Viet Cong. For nearly ten years, neither sister knows if the other is alive. Do they both survive the war? And if they do, can they mend their fractured relationship? Or are the wounds from their journeys too deep to heal? In a stunning departure from her crime thrillers, Libby Fischer Hellmann delves into a universal story about survival, family, and the consequences of war.Read an Excerpt
A Bend in the River
In this richly drawn tour de force, Libby Hellmann paints an Asian family saga over two continents. Two sisters take different paths, struggle to confront the past, themselves, and each other. Highly recommended.
In a brilliant departure from her earlier work, award-winning thriller writer Libby Fischer Hellmann has crafted a stunning piece of historical fiction. A Bend in the River is the story of two Vietnamese sisters torn apart by the war that ravaged their nation. Writing from the perspective of these women whose homeland was so brutally devastated, Hellmann has turned her astute, poetic eye from the hellish battlefields to the details of the daily lives of ordinary people struggling through the morass of a long and bitter conflict. The result is a story that will force us all to look back on the Vietnam War with a different, and I believe kinder, understanding. This is an important novel that deserves a broad audience. Kudos to Hellmann for her courage in striking out in this bold, new direction.
Sisters Mai and Tam’s very different paths to survival in war-torn Vietnam provide a compelling, page turning story. Hellmann brings history to visceral, tangible life by shining a light on torture from all sides of the conflict and shows the devastating effects on Vietnamese citizens. Questions of morality and justice are subtle in the point of view of each of the sisters who become different, yet equally sympathetic people in a trauma-filled world.
Gripping…vivid detail… this passionate story of survival has staying power.
Libby Fischer Hellmann is at her best in this novel about Tam and Mai, teenaged sisters from the Mekong Delta, who bravely flee their destroyed village to support themselves in wartime Saigon. This gripping international saga illuminates the complexities of politics and loyalty and love, and is a powerful testament to the strength of women.
A polished segue into historical fiction…simple but elegant prose… offers nuance and depth to a war we thought we knew but did not entirely understand.”