Reading a novel like Escape from Vietnam by Howard Cohen is so much more than enjoying an intricate, riveting plot and engaging with realistic and touching characters. It’s an opportunity for enlightenment, not just about the horrors experienced by both soldiers and those they tried to help during the Vietnam war, but about what it is like to live under communist rule. And it is that last factor that propels the action in Escape from Vietnam and leaves readers grateful they don’t live there, even today.
The key characters, the beautiful Vietnamese woman, Lan, and James, a green beret, became lovers during the Vietnam war. The war separates them, each eventually marrying someone in their own country. Now, in 2018, after years of non-communication between them, Lan tracks down James in North Carolina and asks for his help. James obliges, flies to Vietnam and what he learns shocks him. Lan, and members of her family, desperately need James’ help to escape unscrupulous and cruel members of the powerful Communist party. Aided by Lan’s trusted servants, James follow Lan’s plans that involve two separate escapes. The chances of success seem more unlikely with each turn of the page and readers are breathless wondering what will happen next.
It’s interesting that while Lan and James are the main characters, some of the minor characters, like Chang, are impossible to forget too. There are so many characters who touch you with their loyalty and strength, and others who make you shudder with their cruelty. The depictions of torture used to extract information makes one cringe. Escape from Vietnam will engage reader interest from start to finish.
Recommended and unforgettable reading.