Iris's father is dying when she promises him that she will continue his work in Vietnam, building and opening a school and home for Vietnamese street children. Noah is the son of old family friends and as a Gulf War vet he is struggling with many demons, including the loss of a limb and alcohol. When his mother begs Iris to let Noah accompany her to Vietnam, Iris is skeptical but knowing that demons nipped at her Vietnam vet father's heels his whole life, she is unable to say no. And so these two very different Americans, searching for very different answers in their lives head off to Vietnam to try and make the much anticipated Center a reality.
Once there, the story changes the focus from solely on Iris and Noah, spreading out to include some of the children who will be served by such a center, the young, drug-addicted thug who controls their lives, a grandmother and her terminally ill granddaughter, the police officer who battles his own disability and his deep distrust and anger towards Americans even while he hopes that Iris and Noah are legitimate in their desire to help the scores of homeless orphans living on the streets, and the Center's lovely, upbeat employee who rescues both Iris and Noah in different ways. As the lives of these disparate people weave together, the tapestry of the story gains great depth and meaning.
Shors has painted a very realistic, heartbreaking picture of the lives of homeless Vietnamese children. He captures well the conflict involved with Americans trying to help ameliorate the suffering given our past history in the country, never making things too easy for Iris and Noah to be believable. And he treats the culture with respect and love, despite or perhaps because of its imperfections. While the story was in many instances predictable, it was an enjoyable read and shines a light on a plight few of us realize exists. For those who enjoy novels set in foreign countries, those who like to read novels where the main characters grow and change substantially, and those who support the notion that just one small act can make the world a better place, this will be a good and worthwhile read.
Make sure to check out the book's website for more information on the homeless children Shors is hoping to help support through Blue Dragon Children's Foundation. Each person donating $100 to this worthy organization will receive an autographed copy of Dragon House. Details are at the book's website.
Thanks to author John Shors for providing me with a review copy of this book.