If the communists find them – dishonor and death.
If the soldiers search the boat for refugees – death by drowning.
If they don’t get out of the refugee camp soon – death by despair?
Mai must obey her parents when they send her with uncle Hiep to escape the Vietnamese communists, but how will a sheltered teen schoolgirl survive the terrible trip across the gulf, packed like salted fish in the creaking boat’s hold, or the primitive conditions in the refugee camp?
Forty years after the US military left as Saigon fell to communist forces, so many stories need to be told and remembered.
Did Vietnamese refugees settle in your community?
My book talk: Fleeing Vietnam after communist takeover, 14 year old Mai and her just-older uncle Hiep must survive the rough crossing to refugee camp before they have any hope of reaching their relatives in America, but living in the camp becomes an ordeal, too.
When Mai’s brother fell ill, the teen daughter of Chinese business family had to take his place with Hiep – the bribes were paid, and the Communist forces were searching too near their hiding place.
Fortunately, Small Auntie would be waiting for them at the Malaysian island camp; unfortunately, her nickname described her temper as well as her height. She demanded that Mai and Hiep pay to stay with the family in shelter of a small boat, even though the Red Cross provides food for all.
Every day, they listen for their names to be called so they may leave for their uncle’s home in America. Days turn to weeks – Small Auntie casts them out because they have no money left.
Weeks turn to months as Mai and Hiep live under a tarp tent with other young people whose parents didn’t make it to camp. Lan and her sister Ngoc teach Mai to knit – Chicago is very cold, says Uncle. Kien of the blue eyes tells her about his American soldier father who tried to get him and his mother out of Saigon as US forces departed.
The slim gold bracelet that Mother sewed into Mai’s clothing seems to be running out, as accidents and disease touch the camp. Will Mai and Hiep ever get to America?
As the 40th anniversary of the Fall of Saigon nears, this refugee tale is both a moment in history and a reflection of realities still faced by too many. (One of 6,000 books recommended on www.abookandahug.com)