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The Eaves of Heaven: A Life in Three Wars Paperback – June 23, 2009

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The Eaves of Heaven: A Life in Three Wars + Catfish and Mandala: A Two-Wheeled Voyage Through the Landscape and Memory of Vietnam + The Sacred Willow: Four Generations in the Life of a Vietnamese Family
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. 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. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Bookmarks Magazine

All critics agreed that The Eaves of Heaven, written in short, eloquent vignettes that move back and forth in time, is one of the best memoirs of this period in Vietnam’s history written from the Vietnamese point of view. Indeed, it offers a much-needed perspective in the United States, which often thinks of “Vietnam” as a painful episode in its own history rather than another nation’s. But some reviewers, impressed by Pham’s ability to write in his father’s voice without sentimentality, went even further. They called The Eaves of Heaven a classic among memoirs and compared it with classic texts that address the timeless themes of violence and war. The Eaves of Heaven is a book that will greatly appeal to a wide variety of readers.
Copyright © 2004 Phillips & Nelson Media, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Broadway Books; Reprint edition (June 23, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307381218
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307381217
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.7 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (40 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #405,283 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Andrew X. Pham trained and graduated from UCLA as an aerospace engineer. He worked at United Airlines as an aircraft engineer before switching career to become a writer while pursuing dual graduate degrees, M.B.A and M.S. in Aerospace Engineering, specializing in orbital debris. His brother's suicide was the catalyst in his pivotal life changing decision.

He writes and lives on the Thai-Laos border in a traditional wooden farm bungalow he built on the Mekong River. He teaches writing and occassionally lead bicycle tours in Thailand, Laos, and Cambodia. He has launched a culinary project on, titled A Southeast Asian Love Affair: My Cookbook Diary of Travels, Flavors and Memories, a literary work that tells the stories of his life in Vietnam, Thailand, Laos, and Cambodia. He can be found at

He is the author of  Catfish and Mandala: A Two-Wheeled Voyage Through the Landscape and Memory of Vietnam (1999)  and The Eaves of Heaven: A Life in Three Wars (2009). He is also the translator of Last Night I Dreamed of Peace (2008).

Catfish and Mandala won the 1999 Kiriyama Pacific Rim Book Prize,  QPB Nonfiction Prize, and the  Oregon Literature Prize. It was also a Guardian Shortlist Finalist, a New York Times Notable Book of the Year, a Barnes & Noble Discovery Book, a Border's Original Voices Selection

The Eaves of Heaven was a National Book Critic Circle Finalist and a Asian Pacific American Librarian Association Honorary Book of the Year. It was also the Honor Book of the Asian/Pacific American Librarians Association and named as One of the Ten Best Books of the Year by Washington Post Book World, One of the Ten Best Books of the Year by Portland Oregonian, One of the Los Angeles Times' Favorite Books of the Year, and One of the Best Books of the Year by Bookmarks Magazine

Andrew X. Pham also won a  Whiting Writer Award, a John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship, and a Montalvo Fellowship.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

29 of 29 people found the following review helpful By Larry Mark MyJewishBooksDotCom on July 13, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Sometimes a reader is privileged enough to read a book in which the words, sentences, and stories just wash over and envelop you, like a gentle beach wave. This is such a book. I enjoyed Pham's earlier "Catfish" so much that I awaited this latest book of family stories with great anticipation; and I was rewarded. Whether I read this on the subway, a bench, or at home, I was immediately transported to Vietnam, where Pham skillfully describes the villages and cities, the triumphs, pains, tastes, loves, corruptions, kindnesses, terrors and fears of his father's early life (or perhaps lives.) Along the way, I learned more about Vietnamese history and village life than I ever knew before. Pham orders the chapters so that the reader moves back and forth between the decades of his father's childhood and adulthood, all the while progressing to the point we all expect, the fall of Saigon to the VC.

As his grandmother taught, the eaves of heaven dealt good and bad in cycles. Devastating floods brought death but fertile harvests, childbirths brought the risks of a mother's death, and lovely days brought future storms. The lyrical sentences allow you to nearly taste the peach melba ice cream eaten during a courtship, but also let you live the terror of re-education and being pinned down by VC troops in a life or death firefight. The pure childhood enjoyment of eating treats and having cricket fights is a pleasure to read. But one will never again care for the fabled glory of the French Foreign Legion after finishing this book. I finished the final chapter just as NBC began to telecast the Miss Universe pageant from a colorful and cosmopolitan Ho Chi Minh City and Nha Trang, and all I could do is ponder the tribulations of this memoir and the amnesia of the telecast. Luckily this book captures a forgotten past with all the aspects that the eaves leave in shadows.
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20 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Armchair Interviews on June 26, 2008
Format: Hardcover
The Eaves of Heaven is about Thong Pham's life. His son, Andrew Pham, writes in the first person as if it were his father telling his story. In the introduction Andrew writes "I have lent his [Thong Pham's] life stories my words...The perspectives and sentiments within are his." Hence this book is Thing Pham's memoir, distilled as stories he told his son, and further distilled as Andrew Pham recounts them again.

Thong Pham witnessed the French occupation of Vietnam, the Japanese occupation during World War II and the American war after World War II ended. His story is one of migration that those displaced by war experience. First he moved from his ancestral land in the Red River Delta (North Vietnam) to Hanoi, and later to Saigon. Recounted are also times when work demands pulled him away from his home and family.

Each chapter recounts an event that as a collection bring out the idyllic life of a Vietnamese child born into aristocracy, the horrors of armed conflict, the helplessness of forced migration, the plight of serving in the armed forces, and the hardships of being captured by the enemy. With these backdrops, the narrative interweaves human actions (both base and noble) that give this book its soul. As a collection of family stories, this book is a treasure trove for the Pham family.

Pham's attention to detail effectively transports the reader "on location" so one can truly feel the rain, see the sunrise and appreciate the events are they unfold. The chapters are not in chronological order, and I found myself constantly referring to prior chapters and prior events to get a better understanding of which events had transpired, and which ones were to come. When I re-read the book, I'll read the chapters so the events narrated are in chronological order.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By quynh tran on November 14, 2009
Format: Paperback
I had the book in my sight for days and returned it to the library then I borrowed it and returned it, again and again, until one day I had enough courage to sit down and read it and finished it in 1 weekend. I could have read it sooner and once committed to it I could have finished the book in shorter time but there were lots of things, mostly fear, kept me from completing the task. Most of the time when the book led me to the painful memories of the Viet Nam war during which time I was born and growing up in Saigon, I had to put the book down and walked away for a while until I've gathered enough strenght to pick it up and continue.

Just like the author, I had similar childhood and upbringing, my parents are northerners of the middle class farmer clan who escaped the communist in 1954 to come to the south, my father was a member of the Nationalist Movement, the idealistic young intellectuals group which was decimated by Viet Minh (Ho Chi Minh) group.

Unlike his father, my father never told us what he has been through before 1954, his life during the French and Japanese occupation was never revealed to his children and I am thankful for Pham for opening the window of his soul to show me what I have almost missed the chance to know.

There were so many dark stories of the past, in North Viet Nam, that my father never told us, having read the book I came to realize the reason why my father never wanted to talk about them.
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