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Fourth Uncle in the Mountain: The Remarkable Legacy of a Buddhist Itinerant Doctor in Vietnam
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Fourth Uncle in the Mountain: The Remarkable Legacy of a Buddhist Itinerant Doctor in Vietnam

4.34  ·  Rating Details ·  242 Ratings  ·  47 Reviews
Set during the French and American wars in South Vietnam, Fourth Uncle in the Mountain is the true story of an orphan, Quang Van Nguyen, adopted by a sixty-four-year-old monk, Thau, who carries great responsibility for his people as a barefoot doctor. Thau manages against all odds to raise his son to follow in his footsteps and in doing so saves him, as well as a part of V ...more
Paperback, 384 pages
Published October 3rd 2006 by St. Martin's Griffin (first published 2004)
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(showing 1-30)
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Jun 10, 2013 Jimmy rated it really liked it
Shelves: war-vietnam
This book is filled with ghosts, souls, spirits, magic, incantations, charms, sorcerers, sorcery. That's both its strength and its weakness. I mean am I supposed to believe some of this nonsense? Once I start doubting, I start questioning the rest of the story.

It is the story of the orphan boy Quang Van Nguyen who is adopted by a 64 year old Buddhist monk. He experiences the war with the French and then the Americans. Although he is pretty much an observer. He will flee Communist rule in Vietna
Feb 11, 2009 Colin rated it really liked it
Ah yes a mystical book indeed. This memoir has many things I like woven into the drama of the conflicts in Vietnam. The picture painted of vietnamese culture is full of magic, superstition, martial arts, tradition and some pretty funky sounding fish sauce. Following the author from the day he was discovered abandoned in a busy market through many strange journeys and encounters. His father, a powerful traditional healer, acting as a guiding hand throughout.
All in all a great book that gives you
Pam Mcmahon
Dec 02, 2013 Pam Mcmahon rated it it was amazing
I can only recall one other book that reached out and grabbed my soul to the same extent as Fourth Uncle, and that book is The Grapes of Wrath. That is not to say there are similarities in the writing style or the story line; only that there is such depth of humanity. It begins during the French occupation of South Vietnam and carries through to the end of the Vietnam war and the fall to the Communist North. As an autobiography of the son of a well-respected monk and itinerant Chinese herbal med ...more
Dec 16, 2010 Ellen rated it really liked it
Fourth Uncle In The Mountain ( The Remarkable Legacy of a Buddhist Itinerant Doctor in Vietnam) co-authored by Quang Van Nguyen and Marjory Pilar is a richly remembered and beautifully told life in which tradition survives the ravages of war. The writing is superbly present: "The jungle air wrapped around me and welcomed me back. There was a hum, a melody, and a fragrance. I remembered the sounds had ears, and would hush in an instant at the firing of a gun." Quang Van Nguyen saved the life of t ...more
Nov 29, 2011 Elizabeth rated it really liked it
This is another book that I've read twice. It has helped me realize that my view of reality and the West's view of medicine is far from complete. I was amazed the the medical applications mentioned in the book and liked learning about the Viet Nam War from the perspective of the South Vietnamese. How lucky I have been not to live where I'm a tool in someone else's political war!
Jan 01, 2008 Pat rated it liked it
Recommended to Pat by: Humanities and Health Care reading group sponsored by FAHC, Bur

A memoir, a history, a book of secrets, sorcerers, and spirituality.
This is the story of Nguyen Van Quang from his birth in Vietnam in 1950 until his immigration to the US. Woven through the account of one wise man attempting to teach his mischievous son to follow in his footsteps as a widely respected and beloved barefoot doctor, there is rich, magical lore and the complex worlds of traumatized souls and ghosts; cloud snakes; the realms of cac dan (little people), various demons, and spirits
Tina Stroh
Aug 17, 2012 Tina Stroh rated it it was amazing

Loved it. Nice mix of history, spirituality, mysticism and superstition. A tale of a true healer. I have had a fascination with faith healing and studied it in Madagascar so I devoured this book.
Feb 27, 2008 Rah~ri rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Nate, may find it interesting?
I still think U should call the Aliens to come and get u instead of investigating shamanism : ) (Once you start investigating They Will Come And Get You Anyway! ; ) !!) But if your still interested in that stuff, Maybe you should check this one out? Not for the writing(!) but to see some of the cross over in (???) approaches taken in other cultures. Kind of goes in line with some of the stuff Vizenor talks about. May seem a bit sensational to lot's of folks unless they've been exposed to "
Lindsay Gasik
Dec 15, 2015 Lindsay Gasik rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The Vietnam War is practically immortalized in pop culture, but we rarely get to see what life was like for the noncombatants trying desperately to go about their normal lives.

Earth Uncle in the Mountain is a captivating growing up tale in which violence hovers on the fringes of young Quang's life. However this book isn't just a memoir. Told with a charming simplicity, Quang weaves the magic, ghosts, sorcery, and other supernatural elements that shaped his life as the son of traditional doctor.
Aug 05, 2010 Tim rated it it was amazing
What a memoir! Growing up in war torn Vietnam, learning Chinese herbal medicine from rare masters in the field, getting caught up in dark magic and exorcisms, sitting in meditation in a cave for 4 straight years, fleeing the homeland only to find one's self in a Thai refugee camp, and ending up in New England (?!) is a recipe for one fascinating individual! To me, the writing style was among the most interesting parts of this book and managed to convey a stream of consciousness-like quality from ...more
Dustin  Lee
Oct 06, 2009 Dustin Lee rated it it was ok
I tried to get through this book twice and couldn't do it. Perhaps I'm not ready for it yet. It's not that it's a bad book, it just doesn't speak to me enough to keep me turning the pages past the 150 page point. When the protagonist reaches adolescence the book changes tone and becomes less magical. It seems almost like the editors of the book chose the wrong passages for Quan's life during this part.

Perhaps i will give it another shot down the line. For now though, it will go back on the shelf
Emily Nguyen
Apr 07, 2016 Emily Nguyen rated it really liked it
This book was captivating because the plot is based on a boy who was born while the Vietnam War was occurring. Since he was an orphan, he had a rough childhood. Because of his near death incident with disease, he is inspired to study medicine. Despite the obstacles he faces, he manages to become a successful doctor through his hard work and motivation. Overall, the moral of the story truly inspires the audience; it teaches them that we can achieve whatever we put our mind to
This is a thoroughly enjoyable book that tells the fascinating (and literally fantastic) story of a traditional Vietnamese healer. It is a story of spiritual journey and personal growth that weaves in the cultural and family history of an herbalist in Viet Nam. The story is well written and kept me engaged throughout the book. I recommend this book to anyone interested in the cultural history of Viet Nam or in traditional herbal medicine.
Apr 09, 2016 Alcina rated it it was amazing
This is a beautiful, intimate coming of age book dealing with medicine, spirituality, magic and war. Marjorie Privar does an excellent job of staying out of the way as she helps him relate his detailed memories that are really quite incredible. This book is a very special historical document sharing Vietnamese culture, one mans journey into monkhood and medicine and ultimately, the impacts of war.
Mar 12, 2011 Linda rated it it was amazing
Loved it. This was my second time reading it. The main character is a friend of a professor of mine and my professor dittos everything the author says about Quang. After having completed a weekend Qigong seminar with breathing exercises that allowed me to hold my breath for two full minutes, I am not at all skeptical of what the fourth uncle in the mountain could do after years of breathing exercises.
Feb 02, 2010 Aimee rated it it was amazing
THis is an incredibly interesting book, covering Vietnam during the war and also a recent history of the medicine in this region of the world. As a student of Chinese medicine, I find Quang Nguyen's life as a healer to be very inspirational. The story behind his training is amazing in that there are still people in this world who are capable of such extraordinary meditation as he has practiced. I will recommend this book to anyone I know who is interested in meditation or medicine.
Jan 31, 2014 Stuart rated it it was ok
Shelves: biography-memoir
The book couldn't decide if it wanted to be a memoir of a traditional medicine doctor during the time of the Vietnam Wars or a story of mythic fantasy. Documented events, such as the Ba Chuc Massacre, are mixed with fantastical exploits, communing with a 168-year-old monk and talking with tigers in the jungle, resulting in neither a coherent cultural history or a fact-based memoir.
Nov 24, 2015 Bren rated it it was amazing
Shelves: miscellaneous
Marjorie Pivar has done a great job putting together the memoir of Quang Van Nguyen, a man trained in Asian medicine who had the misfortune of growing up during the war years in Viet Nam. His story is of one of heroism and perseverance, wisdom and integrity--skillfully and beautifully written. "The Fouth Uncle" is truly a remarkable story.
I loved it.
May 09, 2014 Erika rated it liked it
Very interesting story about the life of a Vietnamese foot doctor; his upbringing, training and practice. Because of the hugely different culture, some of what I read seemed unbelievable to me, but much of their healing practices are based on a deep belief system. I enjoyed reading about this culture.
Dec 27, 2008 Sara rated it really liked it
An unexpected delight. I found this in a box outside on the pavement and took it home as a freebie, not expecting that I would enjoy it so much. It is full of insights into the culture and beliefs of village Vietnam pre and during the war, through the voice of an aspiring--and plenty mischevious-- folk-doctor.
May 30, 2010 Marisa rated it it was ok
It was an interesting book, but I had to get by my own disbelief in magic, ghosts, etcetera. The writing was simple which sometimes made it hard for me to get caught up in the book, but overall it was an incredibly interesting story.
Carmen Ambrosio
May 31, 2011 Carmen Ambrosio rated it really liked it
Simple, captivating narrative introduces readers to Vietnamese history, culture, Buddhist practices, animal spirits, and herbal medicine. Highly recommended for Carlos Castaneda fans and others who gravitate to lifelong, self-discovery journeys.
Nov 23, 2008 Aimee rated it liked it
So much promise in the first chapter, but the writing went downhill sharply from there. Despite this, it is still an entertaining read and gives a great historical account of rural Vietnam in the 60's.
May 02, 2012 Leslie rated it it was amazing
Splendid read. I find myself not being able to stop thinking about how good this book is. It is certainly not the best written piece out there but the story is so compelling from a historic perspective as well as medical. It's really amazing.
Liz Minette
Feb 12, 2014 Liz Minette rated it it was amazing
Beautiful story, detailing the growing up of a boy during the Vietnam War. I really loved it. Saw the review for this book a few years ago in the Utne Reader - a great review - and decided to read the book.
Nov 20, 2010 Tamarind rated it really liked it
A wonderful, true story that gives a candid picture of Vietnamese Buddhism, culture, and modern history. Beautiful and sometimes horrifying, but always compelling.
Becky Sidney
Oct 22, 2011 Becky Sidney rated it really liked it
Added to my understanding of VN during the 1960's. Opened horizons and added to my confusion about eastern medicine and meditation.
Feb 15, 2014 Laura rated it it was amazing
It was fascinating to read about this man's childhood in Vietnam in the 1950's and 60's, and his training as a herbal medicine doctor and acupuncturist.
Dec 29, 2007 Linette rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: everyone
I love this is the true story of a buddhist doctor growing up in vietnam during the war. It was the best book that I have read this year.
Feb 16, 2012 Brian rated it it was amazing
A little far out for people without spiritual experience, but really good for those with open heart-minds.
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