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If You Lived Here: A Novel
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If You Lived Here: A Novel

3.64  ·  Rating Details  ·  596 Ratings  ·  101 Reviews
Forty-two-year-old Shelley Marino's desperate yearning for a child has led her to one of the only doors still open to her: foreign adoption. It is a decision that strains and ultimately shatters her relationship with her husband, Martin—the veteran of an Asian war who cannot reconcile what Shelley wants with what he knows about the world. But it unites her with Mai, who em ...more
ebook, 336 pages
Published October 13th 2009 by HarperCollins e-books (first published 2007)
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424th out of 437 books — 310 voters

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Kim Fay
Sep 01, 2012 Kim Fay rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Whenever I think about this novel, I think about how after I read it, I gave it to my mom, thinking she would also enjoy it. I was right. Days later my mom called to say, "What a lovely book." While this may not be standard literary criticism vocabulary, it is the one word for me that defines Dana Sachs's writing: lovely. She writes with such quiet authority, in this case about a couple adopting a child from Vietnam. Sachs knows Vietnam well -- she has lived there more than once, written a book ...more
At first, I found this book difficult to get into. The writing style seemed wordy and it took awhile to get used to the plot being written in present tense. Three chapters in I found myself sucked into Shelley and Xuan Mai's stories.

Shelley is the wife of a mortician. They have been trying to adopt a child from another country.

Xuan Mai is a Vietnamese immigrant who left Vietnam at the end of the 1970s. She fled the country for personal reasons and lives an isolated life.

Though Shelley story is
Dec 06, 2010 Jeana rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: good-fiction
There were some things I really liked about this book and then every once in a while, something about the writing wouldn't ring true. It's hard to put my finger on exactly what bothered me. I really liked Mai's story and cared quite a bit more about her and the resolution of her story than Shelley's. Something about Shelley was just unlikeable to me, as a reader. Still, this book was fairly well-written and it was an interesting perspective on Vietnam and the aftermath of the war.
Aug 31, 2010 Kathleen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The begining of this book almost detured me from reading it. Something about the way they discribed the main charaters job set me on edge. The friend who lent me the book said she felt the same way and to keep reading. Once I got into the book it flowed nicely. I enjoyed the stories of Shelley and Xuan Mai. The things both women gave up showed you how strong they really were. Great book.
Jun 25, 2009 Julia rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I guess, the thing is, I didn't find the main story line believable, I thought the secondary story line was far more engaging, and I really couldn't determine if the book was about friendship, marriage, adoption, or forgiveness. I don't like having to decide which serious topic isn't being handled well enough to be convincing when I read a novel.
Mar 23, 2016 Amy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: school, own-it, fiction
3.5 more likely, I can't choose between 3-4 stars. I loved the story, especially in the second half. However, something about it made it difficult to really get into. Maybe the writing style? Maybe the fact I didn't feel for the protagonist Shelley (or really even like her story [#teammartin])? I'm not sure, but while I liked it, it didn't garner much emotion.
Never read this author before, and probably won't seek out her other books, though I did generally enjoy this book. The best part of it was the description of life in Vietnam currently, the culture of Vietnam generally and the impact of the war, on both the Vietnamese and the Americans who fought in it. It's basically the story of a friendship between two women, one American and one Vietnamese. The American woman wants to adopt a Vietnamese child and the conflict that causes with her husband. Th ...more
This book was an interesting insight to an over seas adoption. I was frustrated by one of the main characters selfishness in the book and had a hard time finishing it. Knowing what I do about the heartbreak of not having children, I can't imagine choosing a child over a man who had stood by my side through it all. It was a book to read, just don't expect a lot.
Jun 08, 2010 Lailani rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Another quick read for summer. I enjoyed the two narrators, the differences in life bridged by a vietnemese adoption, the healing of wounds for two with a past in vietnam, etc. . .

I enjoyed being introduced more to the Vietnemese culture and another aspect of international adoption.

Great story!
Mar 20, 2011 Andi rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Interesting intertwining of characters and their stories, but it didn't keep me riveted. I appreciated the foreign adoption storyline and the complications surrounding it.
Jun 10, 2014 Amanda rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I thoroughly enjoyed this novel and did not even mind the flip-flopping narrative viewpoints, which normally annoys me. I understood the narrator's desire for a child; was entirely, entirely unbelievable that her husband, for so many years, experienced what hundreds of thousands experienced in Vietnam and did not discuss it. Further, he refused to help her in the process and then, all of a sudden, everything ties up nicely in the end. I felt as if the novel would have been stronger ...more
Jun 04, 2014 Robyn rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
My husband was born in Vietnam and was a young child during the war. He was fortunate enough to have been evacuated before the fall. I never understood some of his behaviors and his family doesn't talk about the war to the point that it was only by accident that I learned his eldest sister was killed when her school was bombed. After reading this book, I found that by understanding Mai, I better understood my husband and his family. So many things made sense and I've since passed the book onto m ...more
Nov 25, 2015 Augusta rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
The tile by another name would be "Walk a Mile in My Shoes" as I feel that encompasses the moral of this novel. It details the friendship that forms between an American woman who wants to adopt a Vietnamese boy and a woman who emigrated from Vietnam a long time ago. The main characters all have something blocking them from acknowledging the desires and concerns of their loved ones when making decisions. This leads to the main characters being estranged with their loved ones and all of the novel' ...more
Jan 31, 2011 Cindy marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
From B&N site: At forty-two, Shelley Marino desperately wants a child. Though she and her older husband, Martin, have tried during the course of their marriage, their only hope now is adoption. Martin, who has seen his share of heartbreak, can't reconcile what Shelley wants with what he knows about the world, and as the father of two grown children from a previous marriage, he is not sure he can bear the emotional challenge of fatherhood again. To love is to risk loss and Martin suddenly dec ...more
Tracy Darity
If You Lived Here by Dana Sachs starts out as a story about a woman whose desire to have a child ultimately leads her to Vietnam to adopt a baby boy. Her journey tests her marriage but in the process she gains a new friend. The story is two dimensional. The main plot is about Shelley, and what she endures to have a child of her own. The sub-plot deals with a Vietnamese woman named Xuan Mai, whom Shelley befriends when she learns of the little boy who is available for adoption in Hanoi, Vietnam, ...more
Jun 23, 2013 Linda rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I've never run across this author before, so I don't have any of her other works to compare this to. However, having said that, I did very much enjoy this story about a later-middle-age couple trying to adopt a child. Shelley, the wife, is considerably younger than her husband, Martin, who has two sons from a previous marriage. By profession, the two are husband and wife morticians (a bit creepy!) and have been trying for years to have a child. After several miscarriages, failed in vitro attempt ...more
Dawn Michelle

3 1/2 Stars

This was an interesting book with an interesting storyline. One that has been explored before, but never quite like this. It was pretty personal to me and I do not think I would ever read this again (am giving the book away), but I DID enjoy it, even the parts that were tough for me to read and even the parts that made me so angry that I could have screamed!!

Shelley is a 42 year old married woman who cannot have a baby. Something she has always wanted and dreamed about. So, she deci
May 19, 2011 Debbie rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I’ve never read anything by this author but I did like this book. It did start out sort of slow. At times seemed to even ramble on off of the subject but when you finally understood where the author was going it became interesting to read. An almost predictable story at times. A woman named Shelly, an undertaker, could not get pregnant. She makes a connection with a most unlikely of friends, Mai who is a quiet Vietnamese woman owner of a neighborhood store near Shelly’s funeral home. They find t ...more
Jan 16, 2012 Lisa rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: adoption
A wonderful book about the struggles parents face when considering adoption - but the book is about so much more. It's about the struggles we all face in marriage, and about our ability to forgive ourselves for past mistakes.

I really enjoyed the author's skill at storytelling, making the characters come alive. I also enjoyed the descriptions of life in Vietnam during the Vietnam war and today. I love learning about other cultures, and that's one reason I really liked this book.

I also liked how t
Jul 06, 2015 Linda rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: book-club-choice
A member of my book club chose this book. I doubt if I would have read it on my own; however, I enjoyed the book once I got into it. It's about marriage, motherhood, friendship, and forgiveness. I realize I've read very few books in which a character was Vietnamese, so a lot of information was new and interesting to me.
Oct 07, 2015 Kristin rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A story of two very different women with very different backgrounds who form a special friendship. Took a little while to get into it. A story of adoption, friendship and forgiveness. I very much enjoyed reading about Vietnam today and it's culture. A lovely read.
Jan 19, 2015 Carol rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Enjoyed this book.

It was a nice story. I liked that each chapter alternated between two main characters. I learned about Vietnam and foreign adoption. The writing was easy and flowed. The story kept my attention and I wanted to keep reading.
Nov 09, 2009 Ellyn rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2009
This novel alternates between two narrators. Shelley is a 42-year-old woman desperate to have a child who is seeking to adopt a little boy from Vietnam, placing great strain on her relationship with her husband, Martin, who is a Vietnam War veteran. Mai came to the United States from Vietnam as a young woman, fleeing tragedy, and she runs an Asian market in Shelley's hometown in North Carolina. The two women become friends and undertake a trip to Vietnam that ends up being life altering for both ...more
Pascale Pass
Dana Sachs is a friend of mine and a fantastic writer. This book really tugged at my heart with the adoption story told from two different points of view and made me want to visit Vietnam.
I can't wait for her next book to come out.
Sep 18, 2007 Karen rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone interested in adoption or vietnam or just a good story
Shelves: recentreads
What an unexpected gem this book was! An older couple is trying to adopt a baby in the US, but are disappointed time and again. A chance comes up to adopt a baby boy in Vietnam, but the husband does not want to--he is a Vietnam vet and has bad memories associated with that country. The adoption may be a deal breaker for the marriage. In the meantime, the wife befriends a local store owner, a Vietnamese woman, in order to learn more about the country and customs of her future son's country. Toget ...more
May 24, 2012 Lisa rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction-literary
Shelley and Martin have been trying to have kids for years and after a miscarriage decide to adopt. When they receive the green light to adopt a boy from Vietnam, Martin backs out sending their marriage in a downward spiral. If You Lived Here is a slow-moving, character-driven novel that centers around past tragedies and their impact in the present and the strife and process of foreign adoption. I would recommend this book to those who are drawn to character-driven books that feature characters ...more
I found myself skimming through some of the pages - and I rarely do that! Three stars is being generous actually
Lindsay Kern
Enjoyable light read. I enjoyed the perspective switching and learning a bit about the culture in Vietnam.
Ryan Vollmer
Feb 14, 2013 Ryan Vollmer rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I loved this book. A couple wants to adopt. A little boy in Viet nam becomes available. Husband served there and refuses. All attempts at previous adoptions have failed. Wife really wants this little boy. She befriends a local Vietnamese refugee and together they go to Hanoi. This is where the story really takes off. The two women encounter everything from bureaucratic nightmares and long lost relatives to romance, forgiveness, friendship and love. An artful blend of American and Vietnamese cult ...more
Ashley Bedford
Jan 10, 2014 Ashley Bedford rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Loved the plot line, I was really kept guessing the entire time what the outcome of both of the intertwined stories would be. I especially loved the bits of Vietnamese culture, food, tradition, and language that added a lot of richness to the setting. Can't pronounce any of the words, but I loved reading them in my Anglicized silent reading voice!
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