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An Honest and Fascinating Look into Vietnam
on December 8, 2009
I bought this book because I had traveled to Vietnam at about the same time the author moved there the first time. I didn't know what to expect from the book, but thought it would bring back my own trip many years ago. Almost from the beginning, I felt like I had traveled to a place I had never been. Sachs's understanding of Vietnam and Vietnamese culture is so deep that I saw Vietnam in a new light. She accurately depicts the changing society in the mid 1990s, as communism gave way to capitalism. Her interpersonal relationships with the friends she made in Hanoi were honest, deep and complicated, not superficial or demeaning. I felt as though I was a bystander in Hanoi because the characters in her memoir are all so vivid. I give her a lot of credit for being so open to living in Vietnam. She never complains about the red-tape or prevalence of bribery in Vietnam, things that often drive foreigners crazy. Even the most open-minded people can become cynical when living in a society where you can't even get an answer from a government official without offering a bribe. She alludes to her frustration with these practices after she returns to live in Hanoi in the mid-90s, but for the most part seems very comfortable just going with the flow. I also enjoyed her discussions about the war and meeting with veterans who had fought against the US. For so long, Americans looked down on Vietnam, but Sachs shows how the Vietnamese took a different approach and looked highly upon Americans, even those who fought in the war. The chapter about John McCain was especially fascinating! I highly recommend this book for anyone who has been to Vietnam, plans to go, or is interested in an American woman's experience living in a foreign culture.