The Eaves of Heaven: A Life in Three Wars

The Eaves of Heaven: A Life in Three Wars

Andrew X. Pham

Language: English

Pages: 320

ISBN: 0307381218

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

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

“Few books have combined the historical scope and the literary skill to give the ­foreign reader a sense of events from a Vietnamese perspective. . . . Now we can add Andrew Pham’s Eaves of Heaven to this list of indispensable books.”
New York Times Book Review

“Searing . . . vivid–and harrowing . . . Here is war and life through the eyes of a Vietnamese everyman.”
—Seattle Times

Once wealthy landowners, Thong Van Pham’s family was shattered by the tumultuous events of the twentieth century: the 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.


















afraid. I wondered if she would forget the intimate, nameless places where we had talked through the lazy hours. I wondered if, like me, she felt as if we had lived a whole, though tiny, life here. We paused at a few boutiques and peered through the glass store-fronts, but she wouldn’t let me buy her anything. She knew I was poor. We strolled through our usual window-shopping circuit, down the one avenue then up the other, weaving back and forth around vendors crowding the brick sidewalk. The

roofs. The defenders, two hundred legionnaires and fifty Vietnamese traitors, had six mortars and eight more machine-gun nests scattered within and around the buildings. At the far side of the camp were a long storage shed, an underground bunker, and two cannons that the French used to shell the insurgency. On the steep slope rising from the back of the camp, three camouflaged machine-gun bunkers guarded the camp below. These must be taken the moment the attack started. Their entire campaign

said. Tan turned to her and grinned. “My apartment is just around the corner from here. Would you like to see it? I’ve got a small bar.” It was getting dark. The streetlights came on. People emerged to stroll in the cool evening air. Couples lingered around the little squares, chatting and laughing. Vendors selling snacks, drinks, barbecued meats, and noodles lined the sidewalk. Tan lived in a new luxurious high-rise. We took the elevator up to the seventh floor, well above the treetops. His

were in a selling and buying frenzy. Refugees sold whatever they had. Others liquidated assets at a fraction of their cost to raise money for passage out of the country. Former northerners like my family, who had lived under Communist rule, were the most anxious to leave. The majority of southerners, however, did not think that a Communist takeover would be disastrous. They snapped up cars, motorbikes, houses, and staples at bargain prices. I sold my car and was in negotiation to sell our

Rach Gia along with the two other civilian cars. It was clear then that we were under arrest. Whoever engineered the capture was very devious. Arresting all the out-of-towners last night would have caused considerable commotion. Some might have escaped. But today, by ordering non-residents to leave Rach Gia, they netted everyone since there was only one road out of the city. Catching people at the checkpoint was clean and efficient. “Why did you leave dollars in the open?” Aunt Han asked Anh

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