peteg's blog - noise - books - 2016 10 16 AimeePhan WeShouldNeverMeet

Aimee Phan: We Should Never Meet.

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Kindle. I've had Aimee Phan's name on my to-read list for so long that I can't remember why. This is a fictionalization of various aspects of Operation Babylift from 2004, pre-dating Dana Sach's effort by about seven years. I had similar doubts about this as I did that, and really only ploughed through it because it's short, and there's always the hope that the next loosely-connected short-story will hit paydirt. However the angles seem recycled from earlier works, and even from one story to the next; for instance, a young girl from the Delta abandons a feted marriage to become a nun in an orphanage in wartime, and a pediatrician leaves husband, child and career to tend to abandoned mixed-blood babies in Sài Gòn from 1972 to 1975, vastly stretching the two months she promised her erstwhile family. OK, so orphans wreak havoc on women's relationships, and abandonment is a layered beast.

The scenes from the OC are perhaps closer to Phan's direct experience, viz the predation of the young Vietnamese migrants on the older, keeping it within the community for mostly obvious reasons. Some conservatism is rendered, but none of the drug trafficking (etc) of the Australian equivalent (Cabramatta) that tangles up the men in other cultures. I always put the violence down to excess time in refugee camps and knowing nothing but war for those formative years, but that doesn't work for these orphans. Phan seems to retreat to generic themes of loveless childhoods, an explanation just as applicable to those who stay home.