Mrs. Rossi's Dream

General Fiction, Classics

By Khanh Ha

Publisher : The Permanent Press

ABOUT Khanh Ha

Khanh Ha
Khanh Ha is the author of Flesh (Black Heron Press) and The Demon Who Peddled Longing (Underground Voices). He is a seven-time Pushcart nominee, a Best Indie Lit New England nominee, finalist to Mary McCarthy Prize (Sarabande Books), Many Voices Project (New Rivers Press), Prairie Schooner More...



"I live in a coastal town in the deep south of the Mekong Delta. During the war this was the territory of IV Corps, which saw many savage fights. Although the battles might have long been forgotten, some places cannot forget." Thus begins the harrowing yet poignant story of a North Vietnamese communist defector who spends ten years in a far-flung reform prison after the war, and now, in 1987, a free man again, finds work as caretaker at a roadside inn in the U Minh region. One day new guests arrive at the inn: an elderly American woman and her daughter, an eighteen-year-old Vietnamese girl adopted at the age of five from an orphanage in the Mekong Delta before the war ended. Catherine Rossi has come to this region to find the remains of her son, a lieutenant who went missing-in-action during the war. Mrs. Rossi's Dream tells the stories of two men in time parallel: Giang, the thirty-nine-year-old war veteran; Nicola Rossi, a deceased lieutenant in the United States Army, the voice of a spirit. From the haunting ugliness of the Vietnam War, the stories of these two men shout, cry, and whisper to us the voices of love and loneliness, barbarity and longing, lived and felt by a multitude of people from all walks of life: the tender adolescent vulnerability of a girl toward a man who, as a drifter and a war-hardened man, draws beautifully in his spare time; the test of love and faith endured by a mother whose dogged patience even baffles the local hired hand who thinks the poor old lady must have gone out of her mind, and whose determination drives her into the spooky forest, rain or shine, until one day she claims she has sensed an otherworldly presence in there with her. In the end she wishes to see, just once, a river the local Vietnamese call "The River of White Water Lilies," the very river her son saw, now that all her hopes to find his remains die out. Just then something happens. She finds out where he has lain buried for twenty years and how he was killed.

Mrs. Rossi’s Dream.

 Ha, Khanh (author).

 Mar. 2019. 312p. Permanent Press, $29.95 (9781579625689)
REVIEW. First published March 15, 2019 (Booklist Starred Review).



Catherine Rossi’s dream, in 1987, is to find the remains of her son, Lieutenant Nicola Rossi, the only American unaccounted for after a deadly firefight in Vietnam in 1967. So she travels to the Mekong Delta with her daughter, Chi Lan, 18, adopted from a Catholic Vietnamese orphanage when she was five. At the small inn where the Rossis stay, employee Le Giang believes Mrs. Rossi’s quest is highly unlikely to be fulfilled, but he comes to treasure the companionship of Chi Lan. The narration alternates between the voices of Lieutenant Rossi in 1967 and Le Giang, in the present of 1987, a man born and conscripted in the north who defected to the army of the south, then was imprisoned for “reeducation” in the north for 10 years. Both men describe the horrors and deprivations of war, along with the bonds of fellowship forged, as well as the natural beauty and dangers of the country, on the way to a healing climax. Ha’s prose is so clear and vivid, whether describing a dying soldier’s wounds or local flora and fauna, and his message is so powerfully understated that this beautifully written novel should have a place alongside the best fiction of the Vietnam War.--Booklist (starred review)