Friday, October 16, 2009

The Dragon House by John Shors

John Shors' novel, "Dragon House" is magnificent. The story takes place in Vietnam, Ho Chi Minh City. This part of the world is known well by John Shors. He journeyed through many Asian cities after college. Along the way he met street children. "Dragon House is mainly about the street children in Ho Chi Minh City. The book gives a close up view of what life is like for these children. Some of these children are used by adults to get money to support their habits for women and Opium. Other children may have no fathers or mothers. These children live under bridges, sleep on cardboard. Then, there are the sick children, like Tam. She is lovingly cared for by her Grandmother, Qui. The relationship between Qui and Tam is unforgettable.

In Dragon House through the lives of interesting individuals I could see that life is never fully dark nor fully light. It is the shades of darkness and light which gives this novel a quality of reality. I had to remind myself over and over that these characters were not "real" people. "Dragon House" is a novel. Sahn, the policeman, Iris, the American who opened the center, Noah, the soldier who fought in Iraq , Loc, the indescribably wretched human being without a conscience who used children for his own desires are shaped and blended by a unique writing artist, John Shors.

In meeting each character we learn about their present as well as their past. I suppose it's true that I am shaped by my past. Still, I have the last word, the choice, on how I will allow that past to shape the rest of my life. This alone was pretty fascinating as I read and observed the daily lives of each character.

Dragon House is also filled with the beauty of a land once ravaged by war. I  loved John Shors' descriptive passages of different places. "A curved red bridge led to an island. This bridge was called the Flood of Morning Sunlight." Nearby women delicately practiced tai chi. In "Dragon House" there are dragons weaving their way through the pages like I might read about them in a fairy tale. Only these dragons don't spit fire and scare me. One day Thien told Iris about the Vietnamese thoughts about dragons versus the way Americans see dragons. "In Vietnam, dragons are the greatest, the most noble of creatures. They have protected us for thousands of years."

There is no end to what I could write or say about "Dragon House" by John Shors. Well, I would love to hitch a ride on one of those scooters. I almost think Ho Chi Minh City name should become The Land of Scooters. In the end, I think of Mai. One day she admitted to feeling invisible all of her life. I am sure all street children experience this feeling. John Shors, through this book, and I'm sure through the Blue Dragon Children's Foundation more children will become happily visible through the tools of education and love. By the way I am looking forward to reading "The Wishing Trees" by John Shors.

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