Across the Mekong River

Fiction - Cultural
285 Pages
Reviewed on 07/16/2013
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Author Biography

Elaine Russell’s novel Across the Mekong River (2012) won four 2013 independent publisher book awards for multicultural fiction: Winner Next Generation Indie Book Award, Silver ForeWord Reviews Book of the Year Award, Bronze Independent Publishers Book Awards and Finalist Readers’ Choice Book Award. Prior to publication the manuscript was a finalist in the 2010 Doris Bawkin Award and the Maui Writer’s Conference 2003 Writing Competition.

Elaine’s other published fiction includes short stories for adults and children and the middle-grade adventure series (ages 8-13), Martin McMillan and the Lost Inca City (2004) and Martin McMillan and the Secret of the Ruby Elephant (2012), which also won four 2013 independent publisher book awards. Elaine graduated with a BA in History at University of California Davis and an MA in Economics at California State University Sacramento. After working for many years as a Resource Economist and Environmental Consultant, she turned to writing fiction for adults and children in 1997. She lives with her husband in Sacramento and part time in Kauai.

    Book Review

Reviewed by Patricia Day for Readers' Favorite

Across the River by Elaine Russell, is powerful reading. It is the harrowing tale of a family’s escape from the horrors of the Vietnam war.
At the time, Nou is a child. It is her family's story. Freedom is when the Americans leave the country. All they can do is escape across the river Mekong, into Laos and to a refugee camp. If that fails, they are dead. Reaching Laos is their only hope. The story is told through the eyes of little Nou, or Laura as she chooses to be known much later, of her parents and family members. You become embroiled in the nightmarish battle for survival. Nou’s brothers are lost along the way, as are more family members. The journey to Laos is laced with tragedy, and what follows is equally heart-wrenching. She grows up confused and scarred. Born into an Asian farming culture, she has to adapt to Western civilization. Along the way and to avoid derision, she changes her name. She no longer wants to be identified as an alien in America.

When her father discovers what she has done, traditional methods are used to rid her of the spirits of disrespect and dishonor. She has disgraced her family and must pay the price. Her struggles, and those of her parents, hold the reader captive as they encounter one obstacle after another. It is hard to put the book down. Nou’s daily challenges became my own. I felt her pain as she strove to change and become another person – to fit in with the culture around her. It is not a sad read – tragic, yes, but enthralling. Nou takes you along on her frantic journey to escape the country of her birth, and into the world of refugees and eventual freedom to a new country.