Little, Brown, Oct 2002, 24.95, 310 pp.
In 1916 Viet Nam, twenty-four years old Ven is shocked to learn that her new husband Dan Nguyen is only seven years old. She quickly learns why his father agreed to her joining his family as a “daughter”. She is now an unpaid servant (perhaps slave is more descriptive) to her three mothers-in-law as expected by society. Still she tries to do what is best for her husband as their relationship is more mother to child than a married couple.
However, when the town's mayor has Dan's parents killed, Ven protects her spouse. When she becomes ill she sells Dan into slavery into the safest place she knows, the home of the mayor. Years later Dan and Tai May, granddaughter of the mayor, fall in love. However, another suitor destroys their happiness by revealing Dan's preadolescent marriage, forcing Dan to flee for his life.
THE TAPESTRIES is a tremendous early twentieth century Viet Namese historical tale that is at an incredible level of excellence up to the point that Dan runs away after being exposed. Though the plot meanders after that, the insightful story line provides an intriguing glimpse at a time and place. Along with the resplendent light on the past, the three dimensional cast turns Kien Nguyen's novel into a must read for sub-genre fans who will also want to obtain the author's biography THE UNWANTED as this is a talented writer worth following.
This report prepared by Harriet Klausner