This novel describes the tense existence of Communist Vietnam after the American withdrawal, where a family's life became complicated after the father was put into a concentration camp. The family bond was quickly weakened by the political atmosphere. They attempted to adapt to everyday life, but the family hierarchy, with Father at the top, Mother on the margins and the main character, Summer, left neglected and feeling invisible, caused resentment and hidden hatred that was apparent in the silence of their daily life. As the family overcame the ridicule of neighbors, peeping-toms, near drownings, and marital infidelities, they knew each other a little less.
Finally, they tried to leave the stifling life under the Communist regime by escaping on a boat trip that failed within the first day, losing their fortune to the greed of others. After many failed attempts they were taken to a refugee camp in Bangkok, where Summer was forced to “hold it in” by the barrel of Thai soldier's gun. The trip took them to San Francisco where a “new life” was supposed to begin, and finally to San Jose, California, where old familial bonds were broken by the frustrations of chasing the American Dream.
The frustrations resulted in the parent's divorce. The father's wounded pride, and the innocence of the main character, Summer, came into direct conflict as they tried to live together after the mother left, but things exploded with surprising results. However, Summer's strength and character shone through as she made the best of her situation. The story culminated in the life and death struggle between Father's unrealized aspirations and Summer's fated attempt to free herself from the bonds of tradition and circumstance. This is a touching story of one girl's triumph over her circumstances.
This report prepared by Charley Trujillo