A Vietnamese-American goes back to Vietnam and remember her youth. The book portrays the Viet Cong village politics and operations really well. Also the book gives a really good look at post-war Vietnam in the 1980s. Not my favorite book on Vietnam, but still not a bad book.
Le Ly writes two intersecting stories: One is of her time growing up in war-torn Vietnam (she was born in 1949) with her large family. She gives us a taste of what a farm girl in Vietnam's life is like, the struggles she had to endure time and time again, and the lust of man throughout it all. The second is of her visit back to her family in Vietnam in 1986, after being in the US since 1970.
I have read a bunch of books written by people who were children or teens in wars in Asian countries, but this one was so long-drawn that it was like I had to sit down to hear her full-on descriptions of her entire life, piece by piece slowly recounted, which can get a bit boring at times. I am not saying what she went through was boring (it wasn't one bit - I actually hurt for her, feeling her emotion most of the time as I read this book). I just mean that it would have been more interesting if it was focused on highlights of her life rather than her entire history.
I did learn a bunch of things I had never known. We don't normally hear about the Vietnamese who were in the middle of the country had to deal with the civil war there; careful of their own neighbors and not knowing which side to be for or against while having family members fighting for both sides. As for the descriptions of how US soldiers acted, that part does not surprise me at all (and makes me very sad, especially as an advocate against human trafficking oppression) - but then again I have a Vietnam Veteran father who has shared a few (though not very many) stories of his year in Vietnam. The way they treated women was horrific in my opinion. Le Ly shares some of her own personal accounts with these soldiers - one whom she married (though you don't hear about him until the very end of the book). 25,000 children were born from US soldiers in Vietnam while they were there, which is why there are still thousands of people today recovering from issues of the war in Vietnam (the north, south, and the US soldiers).
Though peace is not talked about a lot in this book, I definitely like what Le Ly tells her family while she is with family members in the 1980's which is basically what she was told about peace by her own father. I am not one to give spoilers.
I do want to see this movie (I've heard the soundtrack for a long time though). I am sure a lot is changed from the story (and at the same time perhaps it is more interesting).
If you are curious, there is content in this book - from details of torture and war imagery that is not pretty one bit, sexual details, suicide, and some profanities used throughout the book.