Title: The Reach of the Banyan Tree
Author: Mark W. Sasse
Publisher: Mark W Sasse (June 29, 2014)
Genre: Historical romance, Contemporary romance, Fiction, Historical fiction
*A copy of this book was provided by the author in exchange for an honest review, which follows.
I was instantly transported back into time to August 1945, French Indochina, where Charles Regal Carson, an American soldier with the OSS Deer Team, was tasked to assist Ho Chi Minh and General Vo Nguyen to fight against the Imperialist Japanese in World War II. What ensues is a hauntingly lovely contemporary romance filled with suspense and intrigue that brought me to tears, as I lived through the lives of Charles (Cha Le), Mai, Long, Thuy, and Charles III.
From there, Charles’ (Cha Le’s) story unfolds through the chaotic life of his grandson, Charles Regal Carson III, (Chip) who in the year 2000 left the family oil business to pursue his own ventures in Vietnam. Surrounded by the natural beauty of Vietnam, Chip falls in love with a young woman named Thuy. Their love leads them on a journey of discovery though cultural differences, language barriers, and age old traditions that lead them to face some ultimate truths in their own lives.
This romance spans fifty years through three generations of American men whose lives are interwoven through the women they love, their courage to face reality, and the lifetime friendships they forged. I loved the richness of the characters and the rites of passage into adult-hood that each endured.
The banyan tree plays an integral part in this story. To me the banyan tree represented the hearts of the people of Vietnam. The tree celebrates life by leading you through the lives of Chip, his father, and his grandfather representing the reach of family ties through the generations. I also gained a new insight into the ancient culture of Vietnam where family loyalty at all costs is still represented in modern society.
Sasse’s descriptions of the Vietnamese countryside placed me within the story. I could see the emerald green rice paddies, and I could feel the heat and humidity that is Vietnam. At times, I felt like I could even taste the food and wine, so detailed were the descriptions.
The cultural and societal differences between Vietnam and America were an uncomfortable truth I had to reconcile with myself. Women in many Asian cultures are not valued as much as males are. I was struck by how the death of the only male child in the family was viewed as a total sense of failure for the family. The loss was such a deep scar that it consumed them and left them unable to move forward. I was awed that these feelings and beliefs were so deeply ingrained within the culture of Vietnam and still exist today.
What struck me the most was that even though these cultural differences plagued the characters, their love and honor to each other overcame all obstacles placed before them. I was taught that love and family truly live on through the reach of our ancestors.
Sasse is an expert story teller. He weaves colorful characters that possess great compassion and an emotional complexity that I seldom see in romance novels. I was deeply drawn to these characters.
This book has something to offer everyone. A splash of true historical facts, passionate love, action, and intrigue will take you on a journey you will not easily forget. This story will remain in a soft place within your heart.
Realistic Characterization: 5/5
Made Me Think: 5/5
Overall enjoyment: 5/5
Overall Rating: 5
Buy it at: Amazon
FORMAT & PRICING:
Paperback: $11.25 USD
Kindle: $2.99 USD
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