Review of Unexpected Gifts

  
 

EXCERPTS FROM SONIA’S ANCESTORS’ JOURNALS/LETTERS

 

SONIA’S paraplegic Father –CHAPTER 2: Sam––Living With Fear

 

“First thing I killed was no kind of thing at all. It was an enemy

soldier, which was a hell of a lot easier to say than the first thing I ever killed was a man.”

–Steve Mason

 

“…Nearing the village, we passed women in their beige tunics, black pants, and Sampan hats, shouldering thick bamboo rods weighted down by buckets of water. Most kept their heads lowered as they walked, but the few who didn’t, stared up at us with dead, black-brown eyes and pressed lips. The afternoon was drawing to a close by the time we reached a village compound that reeked of nuoc maum rotten fish sauce and animal dung. An old, leathery woman, squatting by her hooch was our welcoming committee, but once she saw us shuffle by, she scurried back into her hut, clacking loudly in Vietnamese as chickens pecked at rice granules, bobbing their heads up and down in 2/4 time.

​Carbini cut to the chase. “First, pull every one of those gooks outta their hooches, then line them up here,” he barked.

​I watched my troop comb each thatched home, rounding up families of all ages and herding them out into the open like a cattle drive in Oklahoma. I, too, started the mission and stooping into one of the huts, saw a young woman sitting on a straw mat, eating some rice in a black bowl, a young child at her side.

​She was exquisite—the best possible combination of French and Chinese ancestry, with such delicate features, she made my heart ache. My immediate instincts were to protect her and her son from Carbini and this horrendous war, but she just gazed up at me, emotionless.​

​I could hear Carbini yelling orders to get a move-on, and I signaled this girl, this treasure, to follow me. She shook her head vehemently, and curled her legs around her son. I motioned again, but still, she refused. I froze, unable to think, but when Carbini popped his head in the doorway and snarled, “Weylan!” she got the message and followed me out.

​Whimpering slightly, she joined her fellow villagers, gripping her child’s hand and wiping off a tear that had slid halfway down her cheek. I suddenly pictured slave owners in pre-Civil War days and felt my lunch rise up in my throat.

​“Now, get your Zippos ready, men.” As Carbini’s face flushed red, I sucked in my breath. He caught sight of my reaction and came over. “Weylan here doesn’t like my orders. Anyone else here who doesn’t like my orders?” Nobody spoke up.

​He opened up one of my backpack pockets, yanked out my Zippo lighter, and shoved it into my face. Immediately, you could hear the snap of pockets opening and boots shifting. We were getting ready to Rock ‘n Roll.

​Carbini was first. He marched over to a hooch, flipped on his Zippo, and carefully lit the underbelly of its thatched roof. It smoldered for a few seconds, a thin, rising wisp of smoke twisting in the tropical air. From that, a flame grew, nibbling at the straw with a low, blue heat before suddenly bursting into a torch, arcing up towards the sky in a yellow-hot blaze.

​Carbini turned to us and nodded, his eyes glazed. This was our cue, yet I spun around to search for the girl, who was at the back of the pack, crying softly as she hugged her son. I glanced over at some of the other men, their hands jammed deep into their pockets, and decided to follow their lead. The fire was raging full force on each hooch now, the thatch and bamboo crackling like a 4th of July fireworks display, leaving its reflections in the villagers’ eyes and turning the sky dark with thick, bulbous smoke.

​“Weylan! You son-of-a-bitch coward! You’re no better than the rest of us, you hear me?” Carbini started to charge over, then stopped mid-stride.

​In the distance, a large formation of F4’s was headed our way, torpedoing fireballs of napalm every several hundred yards and scattering screaming villagers down the main road. We were ordered to take cover, but followed the fleeing Vietnamese instead, charging after them and trying not to show our own fear…”

My thoughts: This books is not only the story of Sonia but of all those who are part of our life or have been part of the life of her loved ones. This book is an excellent depiction of human emotions of how different people deal with same kind of situations and that is some thing we observe in our day to day life. This book helps you understand the pain a person goes thorough in his life and still gets ready to live life again everyday. The characters have been drawn perfectly and there is not even a. Single flaw there. The other part I liked about the book is that you get to ready the views of almost everyone. Everyone’s perspective about the same situation is shared and that’s what makes it even a more interesting read. I loved the book a lot, though it got too intense for me at times but I totally enjoyed reading it. At times it helped me to understand some situations of my own life. This book is a perfect read.

  

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