“Always, always it’s the heart first. You must have heart to move you along. After that there’s the head for understanding yourself, your enemy, and the field. If you have heart and use your head, you’ll always find something at hand to help you reach your end.”
This book and its prose is conceptualized with great thought, illuminating, bringing clear images to the mind, and materialized well at the end. There is a quote I came across where some highly-regarded author expressed that writing a book is the closest association a man can have to that of delivering a child. Well, as a man, the mental application of peeling back the layers upon layers found in the story, and the differentiation of the characters “en masse” gave me the perception that the author wanted me to feel her pain. The production of this book made me feel that this would have been an excruciating pregnancy complete with endless mind-altering labour pains and intense contractions. The suffering was most definitely transferable and my sympathies are in order, but man what a beautiful baby. After this experience I am never having a child, sorry sorry, let me rephrase that, I am never writing a novel that requires such quality. Just imagining the author’s sleepless nights abruptly waking up to the thoughts of filling plot holes, tying up any and all loose ends, the totality of the revision process makes me need a bottle of Jose Cuervo upon contemplation of these thoughts. The author’s ability to reconstruct/weave a tale like this is an accomplishment in it self that must have required great patience and attention to detail that all aspiring author’s can/should admire.
“There’s a circlet I carry close to my heart, an oracle bone from someone who knew me the instant I was made… In its silence lies the story.”
Welcome to Vietnam, the climate known for its enveloping heat, the vibrancy of colour, and the unpredictability that is often found in the land of the dragon people. As The Heart Bones Break allows you a rare window into the mind of a young conflicted boy named Thong Tran as he grows into a man with little cares where the only consistency in his life is that of national and internal disparities. As the French would say, “c’est la vie” for Thong conflict is a way of life. States of confusion are initiated at conception, gradually he becomes disturbed by the imposition of the American forces and their crass and boorish behaviour. Despite all of these perpetual problems in combination with the love he has for his country, Thong Tran is driven at an early age by the life that can only be achieved by assuming a life in enemy territory. His only problem, and a big one at that is figuring out in the process of his new life, the true intentions of his own nation and everyone around him at a time when survival is not only left for the fittest, but the most desperate and judicious.
“Haggard and hopeless, the girls seem to expect nothing from the night before them. Even the whores had given up.”
I initially read the first person narrative of this book because it was suggested by the author’s website for North American comfort and perspective. I understand it is not commonplace within literary fiction, but readers should be encouraged to widen their scope, not narrow it. To me it was a veiled shot, I am sure it was not intended with any malice, but to offer a more accessible, less academic, and narrowed viewpoint kind of made me want to read the book the way it was intended. Unlucky for me at the time, but beneficial for me in the long run, my first person e-book edition went blank after the thirtieth page. Scrapping a book after starting it is hard so I felt compelled to download the author’s standard second person point of view edition. I will admit, this did take some adjustments but the differing frames-of-reference made you feel like you were sitting at every seat of the family holiday dinner table, Uncle Jim’s turtleneck wearing, eggnog induced stupor and all.
“The Confucians say we have children so they’ll take care of us when
we’re old and to make sacrifices to us when we’re dead. The Buddhists say we have children because we owe them their lives. What do you think, Chu?”
War is often a very physical form of destruction. From a metaphysical standpoint As The Heart Bones Break engages the audience in the ways war can unsettle the spirit and reshape the mental state of innocent civilians. The book constantly reminds the reader of the unrest found in the spiritual world. The author showcases this through graveyards having to constantly be remade, ancestral temples being constructed, and the presence of kites being flown in the sky. The insinuation is that through all this time the war is not over, death is lurking and peace in Vietnam is long sought to this day. From a mental standpoint this book is not for the ever-paranoid. With the constant presence of double agents and strategic espionage life in Vietnam was very much like the slogan from the X-Files “Don’t Trust Anyone.” Constant influential ploy’s on the Vietnamese state of minds were the attacks on typical masculine downfalls by way of perceived riches from wealthy men, offerings of freedom for you and yours, and the utilization of female wiles. While reading you may find yourself looking over your shoulder or adopting a “crooked eye” as a permanent fixture to your visage. This book thrives on accepting the superficial while learning through experience on how to “peel back the layers” in order to figure out the motivation of individuals and the outcomes that will follow.