A Bend in the River by Libby Fischer Hellmann

Reviewed by Teri Davis

From an American, Vietnam is usually from the soldier perspective. Yes, our young men were enlisted and drafted into military service. Many more interpretations of the situation half-a-world away from the United States do exist.

Libby Hellman wrote a realistic fiction novel beginning in 1968 involving two sisters from a small Vietnamese village, Tam and Mai.

This small village is approached by Americans both from land and air. The two know about how the servicemen drop bombs from helicopters leaving their crops burnt and poisoned. Even worse, they are then not able to grow anything on that land for years.

Tam and Mai select two different opportunities leading them apart and not reuniting again until 1978. What could happen in those ten years?

A Bend in the River is a beautiful image of life for the Vietnamese people of the South. Author Libby Hellman vivaciously researched this particular time, the land, and spoke to many people regarding their personal experiences in creating this gem. Her characterization makes real people in this fictional tale of the sisters.

One unusual element of this novel is viewing the American soldiers through the South Vietnamese people’s eyes. With the changes throughout the time, as the fighting changed, so did the perceptions. People trading loyalties and friendship are quickly created and just as quickly dissolved.

This book is for adult readers. Many of the wartime killings, torture, and sexual descriptions are not appropriate for teenagers or children. The book also includes a lesbian relationship.

Enthralling is the one word vividly describing A Bend in the River. The reader feels as if they become one of the sisters as they face their challenges, failures, and triumphs.

Libby Fischer Hellmann is not just an author but a creator of novels that pierce your soul with phenomenal characterization making the reader feel as if they are that person. Starting her career in broadcast news, she has now written several best-selling novels and short stories. Included with the novels are two series featuring female protagonists as well as stand-alone books.

If you enjoy a can’t-put-it-down story, historical fiction, and a realistic new novel, read A Bend in the River by Libby Fischer Hellmann.