When Heaven Fell by Caroline Marsden

The When Heaven FellThis book is a lovely book which describes the life of Vietnamese people who are very poor but live out in the country where life is good despite it’s meagerness.  Binh is 9 years old and cannot go to school because her family cannot afford the money for a uniform and books.  She sells sodas and cut fruit to the school children on their way home from school.  She lives with her mother, father, brother and grandmother in a one room house made of corrugated tin. 

One day her grandmother tells her that she has an aunt whom she has never met.  Binh loves to hear stories and listens intently about how her grandmother loved an American GI during the Vietnam war.  How they had had a little girl but he was transferred and she lost contact with him.  After her village was destroyed in the war, she put her daughter on a plane to be taken to America.  She hoped that her daughter would have a better life.  Now, her first daughter had contacted her and was coming for a visit!

The family is very excited.  Not just Binh’s immediate family but her aunts, and uncles and cousins.  They all participate in getting a feast ready and they await her arrival from the airport with great excitement.  They all expect her to be rich and to bring the family many gifts.  They are very surprised when she gets out of the borrowed truck.  She is very tall.  She wears just jeans and a t-shirt and she only has one small suitcase.

The book is charming because of the relationships between the family members, the warmth of family and the rich details of Vietnamese life and culture.  Binh’s aunt reveals that she missed her mother very much and never felt quite like an American.  She slowly realizes how many hopes her Vietnamese family had when they heard that she was coming.  Although she is not rich, she is able to fulfill one of Binh’s deepest desires. 

This book would be appealing to girls in grades 4 through 6 who like historical fiction or books about interpersonal relationships. 

Posted by: Fran W.

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