Atmosphere

Land of Salvation

John Shors captures the best and worst of war-scarred Vietnam.

By
October 2009

Boulderite John Shors places humanity under the microscope by fusing the stark realities of street life in Vietnam and the tenderness of his quirky characters in his third novel, Dragon House (New American Library). In a departure from the historical fiction of his first two books, Dragon House places the reader in modern-day Vietnam, with Shors' vivid prose colored by his own travel experiences with street kids in Asia.

Shors' narrative follows two Americans on their mission to open a safe house for street children in Vietnam's Ho Chi Minh City. Iris, a book reviewer from Chicago, feels obligated to open the center because it had been the dream of her deceased father, a Vietnam veteran. Noah, a disabled and jaded Iraq War vet, wants to escape the painful memories of life as a soldier. The unlikely companions begin the task with trepidation.

The plot interweaves the endearing and heart-wrenching escapades of the children for whom the center is intended: two street urchins who earn a few dollars a day beating tourists at games of Connect Four and a cancer-stricken little girl whose grandmother can't afford medicine. As Iris and Noah reach out to the children amid a lingering war-era bitterness toward Americans, their work becomes more than obligation or distraction, and their own wounds begin to heal.

Peppered with his feels-like-you're-there descriptions, Shors' storyline is compellingly real. True to form, we were enamored with Shors' characters from the first chapter to the last.

Shors will donate a portion of book-sales proceeds to the Blue Dragon Children's Foundation, which helps Vietnamese children escape poverty. Visit www.bdcf.org to donate directly.