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A Bend In the River

4.52  ·  Rating details ·  88 ratings  ·  61 reviews
In 1968 two young Vietnamese sisters flee to Saigon after their village on the Mekong River is attacked by American forces and burned to the ground. The sole survivors of the brutal massacre that killed their family, the sisters struggle to survive but become estranged, separated by sharply different choices and ideologies. Mai ekes out a living as a GI bar girl, but Tam’s ...more
Kindle Edition, 406 pages
Published October 7th 2020 by The Red Herrings Press
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Average rating 4.52  · 
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Aug 23, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: netgalley
The story of two young sisters in 1968 who are orphaned and homeless after an attack on their village in Vietnam. Their future lead them to take different paths and they lost touch.
I enjoyed this book and it taught me a lot about the Vietnam War and the choices that young girls had to make to survive.
Thank you to NetGalley and The Red Herrings Press for my e-copy in exchange for an honest review.
Sep 18, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Libby Hellman is known for her slightly gritty mysteries set in Chicago, often reaching back into the past. Her first novel, An Eye for Murder (2002) looked back to the holocaust; she’s ventured to Cuba, to the 60’s in the United States, to WWII, and to Iran. This is her first novel, however, that’s straight up history. As someone who came of age in the late 70’s, the Vietnam War wasn’t history. It was news. It was classmates wearing POW and MIA bracelets. It was on TV and in the newspapers almo ...more
Tessa -Poised Pen Productions
I’m going to preface my review by saying that this isn’t a genre that I read a lot of. But knowing this author’s works, and her total dedication to research, it was a book that I was very much looking forward to reading. AND, I’m so glad that I did!

This story revolves around two sisters in war-torn Vietnam. They endure so much hardship in their young lives, from their village being burned to the ground, to the tragic murders of most of those they love and hold dear, to wondering what their futur
Randi Robinson
After I told the author I would read this book, I asked myself what I had gotten myself into. This isn't my usual genre and I figured it would be a DNF. Boy, was I wrong! I stayed up till 4AM finishing it. This book grabs you from the beginning and doesn't let go . You live the life these girls live. You are there with them when their village is massacred, as they escape to Saigon and as they try to survive this awful war. I was a college student during the Vietnam years. I didn't think we shoul ...more
Dec 06, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I preferred Ms Hellman's suspense books, but this historical novel following Vietnamese sisters Mai and Tâm show a side of the war in Vietnam that most Americans do not see. I would have preferred less "soap opera" but cannot really say how I would change it. Give it a shot. I never regretted finishing it. ...more
Sep 04, 2020 rated it it was amazing
A beautiful story of two sisters and their difficulties during a war and end up in Saigon. They escape but don’t end up staying together. Their lives are totally different. I was lost in their story and hope to read more about them.
Amy Alessio
Aug 15, 2020 rated it it was amazing
It has been a long time since my emotions were engaged along with my attention for an entire book like this!

The story of two sisters and their difficult paths after witnessing American forces level their village in Vietnam, along with the rest of their family, is a story of resilience and hope. Mai becomes a bar girl, struggling to stay solvent, and Tam fights for the Viet Cong. Both find love, and have to do painful things to survive. Yet their story is about strength and growth.

Hellmann's alw
Sofe Gershman
Aug 15, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Ebook Review: A BEND IN THE RIVER by Libby Fischer Hellmann

(A) gression

(B) oth
(E) scape
(N) either
(D) ìes

( I ) ncorporate
(N) ecessities

(T) he
(H) arm
(E) ncroaches

(R) ealism
( I ) s
(V) ital
(E) mbraces
(R) econciliation

A BEND IN THE RIVER, requires action.
Constant awareness of what's ahead, possible dangers.

Making choices best as can, adjust accordingly.
Learning to navigate the rapids, and recovering.

At times with others, and alone.
Taking it moment by moment, hanging on.

Here's a story to read, and di
A Bend in the River derives its name from the Mekong River in Vietnam. In 1968 two young Vietnamese sisters witness the murder of all the members of their village, and the village is burned to the ground by American soldiers searching for Viet Cong. The sisters, Tam and Mai, flee to Saigon after their village on the Mekong River is attacked by American forces and burned to the ground. They steal a sampan and start paddling toward Saigon. Tam is older, more serious, scholarly while Mai is younger ...more
Aug 07, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Sep 03, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Seeing Vietnam through the eyes of these two sisters during and after the war was eye-opening and mind-expanding. This book had me re-examining my interpretation of my relatives’s experiences, stationed there after Mei Li, a defining point. Being on the journey with the sisters, both together and separately, presented an interpretation of the times I’d not truly considered. Get this book and journey back with Tam and Mei through Vietnam 4-5 decades ago. It’s necessary and it’s thought-provoking.
Ingrid Vermeulen-Quakernaat
Aug 12, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Tears in my eyes when I read the last page. What a great story about 2 young sisters (Mai, 14 and Tam, 17) in the Vietnamese war.
The book tells how both young women make choices that are diametrically opposed to each other, both choosing a different path.
I read the book in one go, so I was drawn into the lives of these sisters. As the writer brings you into the book, it will not let you go.
Sympathy for both main characters, both courageous with what life brings them. Moments of laughter, hope,
Sep 26, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: historical, fiction
A Bend in the River by Libby Fischer Hellmann

I wrote this review based on an advanced copy the author sent to me.

The story begins Part One in Vietnam 1968 with two sisters Tam and Mai. They come from part of a fishing and farming community on the Mekong River doing what their ancestors have done for centuries. They share their small home with their mother, father and their little brother Hung Sang and being a boy he is the priority of the family. Their main goal is apparently to find husbands wh
Kristine Hall
HALL WAYS REVIEW: Audio Book Review. The Vietnam War started more than a decade before I was born, and I have vague recollections of the final years before it came to an end. Of course I have learned more over the years, with what I have learned having a decidedly American slant to it. A BEND IN THE RIVER begins in 1968, when I was just a year old, and it provides an entirely different, thought-provoking perspective.

“She watched flames devour the huts like they were hungry.”

Author Libby Fischer
...more Historical Fiction
Award-winning crime writer Libby Fischer Hellmann takes readers back in time to 1968 Vietnam in this excellent historical novel that shows what the war looked like from the point of view of the citizens trying to survive against brutal fighting.

Tam and Mai are washing clothes in the river near their Vietnam village and return in time to watch soldiers wipe out their family and neighbors. With no money, food or survival skills, they flee to Saigon. Mai cuts her wrist trying to fish for the first
Lis Carey
Sep 25, 2020 rated it it was amazing
It's 1968, and Tam and Mai are two teenage girls living in a small village in the Mekong Delta of Vietnam. The war is raging, though they are, they think, in an out of the way spot. Their village hasn't been directly affected--yet.

And then it changes. The girls are out gathering fruit, maybe the only two not in the village, when an American unit moves in, and massacres the inhabitants. The girls see everyone they know, including their parents and baby brother, die.

Tam is a little older, a little
Oct 04, 2020 rated it it was ok
I...I don't know how to say some of the things that I want to say about this book without it sounding harsh and rude, so I'm just going to be honest.

A Bend In the River by Libby Fischer Hellmann is a historical fiction story of two south Vietnamese sisters during the Vietnam War. After their family and village are destroyed by American GIs, the sisters flee to Saigon and start new lives. Splitting after a few weeks, Tam joins the Viet Cong and Mai becomes a bargirl, catering to American GIs at t
Sep 02, 2020 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: readers of darker historical novels
This is an interesting and informative book about two sisters in Vietnam during the war. It covers the years of 1968-1978. The sisters, after watching their family being murdered by US forces, take different paths. One finds a job in South Vietnam, serving soldiers at a nightclub. The other joins forces with the North; her goal is to help reunify the country and avenge her family. Know going in that the author does not appear to be a supporter of the US’s involvement in the conflict.

I enjoyed re
Royal Fox
Sep 18, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: e-arcs
~Thank you NetGalley and The Red Herrings Press for sending me an e-ARC for this book in exchange for an honest review.~
Rating: 5/5

Mai and Tam are two sisters in wartime Vietnam, 1968, who struggle for survival after their small village is destroyed by the Americans and their family is slaughtered. Mai and Tam, even before this tragedy, have not had the best relationship; tensions finally build and boil over, leaving the sisters estranged from each other, each taking separate paths to salvation:
Carl Brookins
Sep 28, 2020 rated it really liked it
The author is known for her crime fiction—award-winning stories at several levels. This enthralling story contains many mysteries, many still unanswered sixty years on. Why were American soldiers fighting in Viet Nam, being one of them. But this is not an academic examination of the politics of the 1960s, although international politics, brought down to an intensely personal level, is a thread that weaves throughout and informs this excellent novel.

This is an intimate look at the lives of two yo
Sep 20, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Historical literature readers
Living in the UK, and just being ten years old when this book starts, I have to admit that although I was aware of the Vietnam war (or American war if you are from Vietnam) I didn't really know a great deal about it, I just became aware later in my teens and early twenties about the anti-war rallies across the US, and something of the plight of the Boat People. I now have a new insight because of this wonderful, well researched book. It is told from the perspectives of two teenage sisters whose ...more
Daniel Mark
Sep 21, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Libby Fischer Hellmann is not a crime fiction writer. She is a chronicler of life from a gritty perspective and a seeker of truth. Her mysteries are as much about a detective solving a murder as a tour guide showing us the City of Chicago from its underbelly.

"A Bend In the River" is a highly researched, distinctive diversion from her many mystery novels. I liken it to three of her previous books:
- "War, Spies and Bobby Sox", which guides us thru a WWII espionage story that culminates in Chicago
Dec 05, 2020 rated it really liked it
Vietnam. 1968.

A peaceful village by the Mekong is destroyed by American soldiers. The only survivors of this brutal attack are sisters, Mai, and Tam.

Traumatized and orphaned, the two sisters are suddenly dependent on their own mettle for survival.

Making their way to Saigon, they are given work from a sympathetic restaurant owner, set up in a refugee camp, and attempt a precarious existence in their new reality.

Older, serious-minded Tam is bent on survival. Younger, idealist Mai is seeking a
Maggie Bermann
Aug 14, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Thanks to netgalley for ARC copy

In 1968 two young Vietnamese sisters flee to Saigon after their village on the Mekong River is attacked by American forces and burned to the ground. The sole survivors of the brutal massacre that killed their family, the sisters struggle to survive but become estranged, separated by sharply different choices and ideologies. Mai ekes out a living as a GI bar girl, but Tam’s anger festers, and she heads into jungle terrain to fight with the Viet Cong. For nearly te
Judy Johnson
Oct 07, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This is normally not a book that I would read, just not the genre I would embrace, but because Libby wrote it, I figured I'd give it a go. I'm so glad I did. This book grabs you from the beginning and envelopes you to the point where it's difficult t put down. The book describes the lives of Mai and Tam, who end up orphaned after an American raid in her Vietnamese village during the Vietnam War, and the turns their lives take as a result. The reader is immersed in their lives and is kept riveted ...more
Aug 30, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This book is a gift to people who lived through the horrifying period of the Vietnamese War. It's a terrible validation of all we feared. Yes, it was a cruel and horrible war, and yes, we effectively lost this war. With this war we lost the right to call ourselves the heroes we believed ourselves to be after the Second World War. We lost the idealism that our patriotism is based upon. We, to a certain sense, now see ourselves as thugs and opportunists.
The story of the two Vietnamese sisters is c
Oct 07, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2020, won
I felt compelled to read this story of two sisters surviving after the raid on their village.
Part of the compulsion was due to the description enticing readers to pick this novel to read, the other was due to my life experiences. My father was stationed in Saigon during the Tet Offensive. He didn’t talk about it a lot but through some poignant discussions on military strategies, police procedures, occupation, and people’s behavior and fears, I came to respect each person’s outlook of this war. M
Tim Rand
Aug 25, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Visiting Vietnam decades ago for a medical mission, my wife and I met four young translators who we came to know as our ‘daughters of Danang’. Expecting to encounter war-related distrust of Americans, I was surprised to find instead considerable positive intercultural chemistry. Libby Fischer Hellman has immersed herself in this world as a traveler, researcher and story teller. So in reading this generous ARC book, I became engaged in the lives of two more fictional daughters!

Facing arduous surv
Sep 22, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I’ve read books by this author before and have always enjoyed he books. They were mostly thriller/mystery type books which are my favorite. I thought I would read this even though it was a little different for me. I’m very glad I read it. What an interesting read about two Vietnamese sisters who are the only members of their family that survive after their entire village was destroyed. The sister’s take different paths in their lives but it’s amazing how they both went through so much along the ...more
Susan Hamann
Aug 04, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Mai and Tam, two young sisters in Vietnam in 1968 watch from a distance as their family and their entire village is wiped out by American soldiers.

They escape to Saigon on the river and have some good luck in getting there and settled. Then they start to disagree on how to make money to survive. They take two very different paths.

This story tells about the war in Vietnam from two vantage points that we Americans rarely thing about. The Vietnamese woman's point of view. One decides to become a ba
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Libby Fischer Hellmann left a career in broadcast news in Washington, DC and moved to Chicago 40 years ago, where she, naturally, began to write gritty crime fiction. Sixteen novels and twenty-five short stories later, she claims they’ll take her out of the Windy City feet first. She has been nominated for many awards in the mystery writing community and has even won a few.

Her newest work is A BE

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