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The Eaves of Heaven: A Life in Three Wars
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The Eaves of Heaven: A Life in Three Wars

4.0 of 5 stars 4.00  ·  rating details  ·  360 ratings  ·  79 reviews
From the award-winning author of Catfish and Mandala comes a son's searing memoir of his Vietnamese father's experiences over the course of three wars.
Hardcover, 301 pages
Published June 3rd 2008 by Harmony (first published 2008)
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Cambodia and Vietnam
96th out of 132 books — 118 voters
The Gangster We Are All Looking For by Lê Thi Diem ThúyI Love Yous Are for White People by Lac SuWhen Heaven and Earth Changed Places by Le Ly HayslipCatfish and Mandala by Andrew X. PhamThe Eaves of Heaven by Andrew X. Pham
Vietnamese-American Novels & Memoirs
5th out of 6 books — 6 voters

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>> Recently reread this one and am reposting the review.<<

This remarkable story is classified as memoir but I shelved it with novels as well because it reads like a novel. Either way it is finely crafted and thoroughly engaging. Writing in first-person as his father, Andrew tells the story of his father's life in Vietnam in chapters shifting back and forth in time, primarily between World War II and the American War. In the 1970s the family moved to America, where Andrew was raised.
Mr Nguyen
Reader Response – Eaves of Heaven by Andrew X. Pham, October 27, 2009

Why am I reading this book? I must’ve read hundreds of books about Vietnam, historical, political, cultural, literary. And this particular one isn’t even that great, or not as great as Pham’s last. Perhaps it’s because this time he’s writing his dad’s memoir and things get lost in translation. Surely his father recounted his memories in Vietnamese. And then for Pham to take those accounts and draft them into purple English pros
This was a great book for my Vietnam Era class. It gives the perspective of someone who defected from North to South. It also takes the reader through the important history of Vietnam from WWII to the Fall of Saigon. It can definitely be used as an educational tool. The only issue I had was that since the book moved back and forth between time periods, the reader needed to pay close attention to character names (and there were many) and the time period. Read the chapter titles for help as you ca ...more
This is a gripping tale of the author's father. The language and imagery are beautiful or bittersweet. And at times, the writing is utterly poetic and read like a fiction in terms of pacing and rhythm. I learned a lot about about Vietnamese history during the French colonial period, Japanese occupation during WWII and the Vietnam War.

I can't say this story was optimistic--it was bracing certainly. It is about survival and the anguish of a people trying to shake the shackles of colonialism and t
Jun 30, 2013 Natalie rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommended to Natalie by: A goodreads recomendation
This book goes back to about my parents age, from the Vietnam perspective. This book satisfied both my historical and cultural curiosity, and the other side's perspective. Straight history and war facts are boring to me. This was a beautiful story, not a fact after fact description account.

It goes back and forth between the years, so it never allows you to get tired of it. Not dry reading, reads like a good novel. It's a good engaging story. It has characters you care about, and want to know wha
I love this book! So why only four stars? There is one thing I don't like about it - that is that from chapter to chapter you change time periods. The chapters are not chronological. One chapter you are in the time of his youth in the north and then in the next chapter it switches to 30 years later. Now if it were a badly written book, one would scarcely care. However the writing really pulls you in and you NEED to follow the thread of thought in the previous chapter. I got tremendously pissed o ...more
Jeff Chappell
Sep 22, 2009 Jeff Chappell rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: anyone looking for insights into Vietnames culture and its wars
Shelves: nonfiction
I enjoyed Pham's first book so much, I had to read this one; it did not disappoint. Having been exposed to much American navel gazing over what the Vietnam War meant, it is fascinating to read the account of someone who experienced it from the Vietnamese side. Someone whose life experience actually covers three of Vietnam's conflicts, the American war being just part of the ongoing saga that overlaps three generations. Someone from North Vietnam who, as a refugee from earlier conflicts, found hi ...more
Bookmarks Magazine

All critics agreed that The Eaves of Heaven, written in short, eloquent vignettes that move back and forth in time, is one of the best memoirs of this period in Vietnam's history written from the Vietnamese point of view. Indeed, it offers a much-needed perspective in the United States, which often thinks of "Vietnam" as a painful episode in its own history rather than another nation's. But some reviewers, impressed by Pham's ability to write in his father's voice without sentimentality, went ev

Andrew X. Pham's autobiography "Catfish and Mandala" is an American classic. In "Eaves of Heaven," he again proves himself to be a master story teller. His prose is lyrical and his words are carefully chosen, like images on an artistic landscape. As Andrew writes on his website, his medium is words and his canvas is paper. He paints his father's life in Vietnam with love, respect, poignancy. Historical events are meticulously researched. I believe that through the telling of his father's life, A ...more
Jul 25, 2008 Bree rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: anybody interested in Asia, Vietnam, history
Recommended to Bree by: New York Times
Shelves: favorites
This is a fabulous book and I highly recommend it to anybody. It's a biography written in the first person by Andrew Pham of his father's life. It is beautifully written, poignant and sad while also being remarkably instructive in the genesis of the Vietnam War, the rise of the Viet Cong, French colonialism and American incompetence. The book really conveys a sense of just how awful everybody involved in the war was, but also how helpless Vietnamese civilans were in the face of the tides of nati ...more
Deon Stonehouse
The Eaves of Heaven by Andrew X. Pham is heartbreakingly beautiful. Catfish and Mandala, his memoir of cycling the West Coast of the US and Vietnam proved he could write, but it did not prepare me for this moving portrait of his father’s Vietnam. The Eaves of Heaven is a haunting story of a lost way of life. It astonishes me that Pham can write such utterly lovely prose about such terrible times. Thong Van Pham’s family lived for many generations on the same estate, ruling a North Vietnamese rur ...more
Wendy Feltham
This is an incredible story of survival, loyalty, and betrayal over decades in Vietnam. Andrew X. Pham tells the life of his father, a brilliant and gentle teacher who is caught up in the series of wars/resistance against the Japanese, the French, and the Americans, as well as the country's internal massacres. Thong Van Pham's political naiveté and bad luck bring about a shocking series of terrors that helped me make sense of the 20th Century in Vietnam. I enjoyed reading about Thong's almost id ...more
I've been reading a lot about Vietnam lately but this is the first one I've read that covered the periods of the French and Japanese occupations. The last century in this country as been tragic, fascinating and full of the kind of experiences that lead to classic narratives on the struggles of war and the efforts to maintain a culture though decades of foreign control.
The Eaves of Heaven is one of the best books I've ever read and Andrew X. Pham is a very talented writer. I will definitely pick
The Eaves of Heaven: A Life in Three Wars is a stunning and reflective piece capturing the horror, hope, and beauty of life in Vietnam during the First and Second Indochina Wars (otherwise known as the French War and the American/Vietnam War respectively). Author Andrew X. Pham employs his gift for engaging details and captivating narrative work in the same fashion he established in his brilliantly devised first book, Catfish and Mandala. The Eaves of Heaven uniquely seeks to tell its story from ...more
I almost gave this a 4 but in the end went with the 3. The book was well written but I think I would have enjoyed it more in chronological order. It was often difficult for me to follow where he was at what time as it flipped flop from his childhood, young adulthood, early marriage and his "later" years. Perhaps if my life was a little less chaotic while I was reading it, it would have been easier for me to follow (looking for a new place and moving). Sadly, my understanding of the Vietnam war i ...more
Laura K
The Eves of Heaven is an autobiography/memoir of Mr. Pham's life in Vietnam during the French occupation, WWII, and the Vietnam War. The hardships endured by the people in the book made it difficult to read. Several times I had to put it away for a few days, due to the disturbing nature of the events. It was worth reading. I had never really understood the changing political affiliations and various events that took place from the early 1900's through 1975. I admire Mr. Pham and his wife and fam ...more
Set in the 1940's, 50's, and 70's, this book follows the author's life as the eldest child of a wealthy well-educated land owning family. But instead of inheriting this place of power and honor, the family must flee due to the ongoing war. Very interesting and heart-wrenching. I would have liked it better had the story been chronological instead of the chapters skipping decades/time periods. Not knowing much about Vietnam or the ongoing war, it was hard for me to keep everything straight and at ...more
Dec 07, 2008 Zoe rated it 4 of 5 stars
Shelves: history
This reads like a novel, but is a son's memoir of parts of his father's life. It spans the early 1940s to the mid-1970s, and three separate wars in Vietnam: the struggle during World War II against the Japanese; the fight between the Viet Minh nationalists and the French colonialists, and the US-backed war between the nationalists and the Communists.

The book illustrates by following a family how wars inevitably divide people and force people onto sides of a conflict that they may not care about
This book was written so compellingly in the first person that at first I did not realize that Pham was writing about his father's experience rather than his own. The narrative jumps around from childhood to young adulthood to the teenage years and back again and the location of the story also changes frequently, but the date and location are always clearly stated so that the narrative is not confusing. What I did wish for was a map, which my copy of the book didn't have. I found this a very ins ...more
Eaves of Heaven is a memoir of living through three decades of conflict in Vietnam through the eyes of Andrew Pham's father. Beginning during the Viet Minh's war of independence with the French and ending with the frantic last days of April, 1975, the book chronicles the path of the Van Pham family from their ancestral palaces in North Vietnam to their flight to the south after the Communists take over Hanoi. What makes this book fascinating to read was the combination of sweeping historical eve ...more
Shirley Freeman
It's hard to imagine one life with that much turmoil. It's well written and very helpful in understanding the convoluted history of VietNam but I did have a little trouble keeping track of things as the book constantly jumped between eras/decades. A reminder of how differently people act in times of crisis -- and how seemingly small decisions or hesitations can have a dramatic effect on one's life. I'm glad Thong Van Pham came to America.
Nancy Clark
The author tells the story of his father's life in Viet Nam from the early 1940s to 1976 when Saigon fell to the Viet Cong. We learn about the French occupation, the invasion by Japan in WW II (and the subsequent terrible famine)and the Viet Nam war with the Americans. No dry history book, the stories are very personal with details of every day life in the countryside as well as the life-changing effects of 3 wars.
Hopping between three different times in his father's life and told from his father's perspective, Pham brilliantly tells the life story full of joys and hardships suffered in war-torn Vietnam from the 40s through the 70s. The whole book, I was dying to know more - more about what happened next, more about what happened behind the scenes, but mostly more about the history of the country.
Andrew Pham writes about his father's life in Vietnam. It is well done and explains the many shifts in political power during his father's life. The descriptions help you develop your mind's eye of what Vietnam looks and feels like. It is a story of sadness and triumph for this family.
Well written, well described and you should read this.
kimbra krafft
Very good book

Let me start by saying that I am almost exclusively a reader of fiction, so this book was a real departure for me,but I thoroughly enjoyed it. It was entertaining (not really the right word given the subject matter) and educational. I was in grade school during the Viet Nam war and didn't know a lot about it or the circumstances leading up to it. I liked the author's writing style. He told the story in an entertaining manner. I will definitely be checking out his Catfish and Mandel
Stacey Nguyen
Most of my history classes have done me the disservice of cursorily framing the Vietnam War as one of America's biggest mistakes. This book is different. Weaving back and forth between three major wars, Pham carefully fleshes out Vietnam's nuanced contemporary history, explaining the country's social and political context in the twentieth century. He illuminates his father's courageous and difficult life with beautiful and poetic language. I'm no war buff, but I found myself yet again enticed by ...more
It has been ten years since I read Pham's earlier book, Catfish and Mandala, and it is still one of my favorite books. His insights into crossing cultures are written in the clearest way I've ever read that also captures all of the gray areas involved when maneuvering through one's development of identity in relationship to one's own family history and the history of your entire culture. I use it in my classes whenever possible to illustrate an outstandingly effective use of active verbs (I'm th ...more
This book tells the story of one man's life in Vietnam as he lives through the French occupation, the Japanese invasion during WWII, and the Vietnam War.

One of the most interesting parts to me was how it showed the Vietnam War as just another stage in a series of conflicts in Vietnam. (Oh, and it shows the US as being more interested in installing their chosen leader rather than allowing actual democratic elections. But I've read enough about the US's patronizing approach when it comes to democr
I read this book while in Vietnam and it was an effective reminder of the human toll the two wars (the first against the French, for independence, the second between the North and South) had on the Vietnamese people. History often has a way of clouding over the human toll war exacts, but this well written memoir provided context from the point of view of one man/family. What his was and how it shaped future generations.

I would highly recommend this to anyone who is interested in Vietnam.
Probably one of the best books to read about Vietnam. An unbiased portrayal through 30+ years of war. While it is only one man's and his family story it captures all the essence of humanity while living through war.
My only (very) minor quibble is that the language gets a bit too flowery at times, and some photos (if they exist) and an family tree would have added even more poignancy.
Combined with Catfish and Mandela, Andrew Pham has written two excellent and essential books from a Vietnamese per
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writer, artist, athlete, lover of food, watcher of sunsets, engineer, distracted cyclist, ocean swimmer, teacher, student, ultralight pilot, walker of deserted beaches, planter of rice, occasional madman, admirer of beauty, believer of karma, perennial tourist, reader of souls, grinning fool, dreamer, wild at heart
More about Andrew X. Pham...
Catfish and Mandala: A Two-Wheeled Voyage Through the Landscape and Memory of Vietnam A Culinary Odyssey: My Cookbook Diary of Travels, Flavors, and Memories of Southeast Asia A Theory of Flight : Recollections Last Night I Dreamed of Peace: The Diary of Dang Thuy Tram

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