How many people have held that question in their hearts, unable to let ghosts rest or hope die? Marian Palaia's first book The Given World traces twenty-five years in the life of Riley, a Montana girl whose adored big brother Mitch leaves college for Vietnam and is lost in the tunnels of Cu Chi.
After her lover is drafted she leaves their newborn baby to find the ocean. Riley disappears into the San Francisco life of the 1970s, with its alcohol, drugs, and life on the street, seeking homes with other broken people. Unable to find peace, she goes to Saigon to see the tunnels of Cu Chi herself.
Riley is broken, she makes self-destructive choices, she flees from wholeness. Not only does 'shit happen,' Riley feels at home there. The story is painful to read, but never did I feel judgmental or repulsed by Riley. I was rooting for her every page.
Palaia's world and characters are palpably real, rooted in a deep knowledge, created with a capable and polished art. I only wish we had followed Riley real time into the tunnels. I wanted to know more about what transformation, or lack of it, occurred there.
Riley's mother consoles her daughter toward the book's end: We were never meant to be perfect. What blessed assurance: to be loved because of our brokenness and pain and accepted for our imperfection.
The review that compelled me to request this book read:
"Not all the American casualties of Vietnam went to war. In stunning, gorgeous prose, in precise, prismatic detail, Palaia begins with that rupture and works her way deep into the aftermath-- its impact on one person, on one family, on one country. Riveting and revelatory." Karen Joy Fowler author of We Are All Completely Beside OurselvesTo learn more about Marian Palaia see an interview at The Quivering Pen
I received a free ebook through NetGalley for a fair and unbiased review.
The Given World
by Marian Palaia
Simon & Schuster
Publication April 14, 2015
ISBN: 978-4767-7793-1 hardbound
ISBN: 9781-4767-7805-1 ebook