The Stars, the Earth, the River: Short Stories by Le Minh Khue

Le Minh Khue, Author, Minh Khue Le, Author, Wayne Karlin, Editor Curbstone Press $14.95 (232p) ISBN 978-1-880684-47-4
As a journalist who covered the Vietnam War and its aftermath, and later as a prominent writer in Vietnam, Khue has witnessed her compatriots at their noblest and most venal. Throughout this collection of 14 stories, she unearths secrets assiduously buried in the psyches of her characters. These may be a tenderness too fragile to reveal, emotions long forgotten or a passionate love too frightening to admit. Often, they are greedy manipulation, duplicity and selfishness so wantonly immoral it would wreak disaster were it known by others. Khue is fascinated by the odd contradictions in human nature, particularly those that are tragic and self-defeating. She is as deft at evoking the bonds of sisterhood among three teenage girls working as North Vietnamese sappers during the war (""The Distant Stars"") as she is at portraying the fratricidal envy that erupts between the families of twin brothers (""The Almighty Dollar""). Measuring her culture against an alien and invasive Western one, she distills both, able to see alike their uniqueness and commonality. The stories never blame savagery on poverty or deprivation, arguing instead that human character matters. There is a bleakness to this collection, a blasted feel that comes in war's wake, relieved by genuine but brief interjections of wonder. Through her stories, Khue exposes a Vietnam more vital and complex than the stereotypes that linger in the minds of many Westerners. (Apr.)
Reviewed on: 03/31/1997
Release date: 04/01/1997
Genre: Fiction
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