THE COLLECTION OF HENG SOUK By S. R. Wilsher, a Review by Joan Adamak

Love wears many faces.

This is one of the best novels I have read in a long time, even though it is by a little known author.  I was a young woman during the Nam years and through the reports of those who were there, know a little about the emotions, pain, hate, desperation and reactions of humanity on both sides of the Pacific Ocean.  This author was able to capture the personalities, dreams, hates, pain of both Vietnamese and Americans during these times.  Colonel Heng Soul was a commander at the “Citadel,” a prisoner of war encampment at Thai Binh in Vietnam.  He was young and ambitious during those years, after having been a professor at a Vietnamese university and he used forms of mental, emotional and physical torture to gain information to help the Vietnamese.

His niece, Sun, approached him when he was an old man, to advise him of his brother and her father’s death.  He was cold and disinterested.  Sun couldn’t leave it at that, plus the fact that she intuited that her mother, Ahn, had some interest in Heng from past times, which she wouldn’t admit.

One of the prisoners was Carlisle, who had fallen in love with a young woman just prior to  shipping overseas, leaving her pregnant and because she wasn’t sure he loved her like she loved him, she never told him.  She allowed her son, Thomas, to believe another man whom she married was his father.  After this other man died, the mother revealed to Thomas that his real father was Carlisle and she never got over loving him, but believed he died in Viet Nam.  During this time when Sun was getting acquainted with her  Uncle Heng, Thomas went to Viet Nam seeking Heng to determine if he had a prisoner named Carlisle who may have died there.

Ephraim Luther, an American POW, although beat severely many times by order of Heng, mystified Heng, who believed he had much to tell him, but refused.  Finally Heng gave him a notebook and a short pencil and told him to write what he knew.  At first, Ephraim refused, but then he wrote what he saw happen, what happened to him and others and how they felt.

There are other characters in this story that enlarged the events of those days and through introspection and in-depth character study, the reader lives those times.  I found myself tearing up several times because it was written so that it was like being there and experiencing the sorrows and hopelessness of these people.

I heartily recommend this story, not because it is another war story, but it is too real to be ignored.  This is why I said “Love wears many faces,” because that is the essence of this novel.

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