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Reviewed by Pikasho Deka for Readers' Favorite
Inspired by his own experiences of living in Vietnam as a kid from 1963-65, author Ralph Pezzullo's Saigon tells the story of Michael Sforza, the thirteen-year-old son of a US diplomat, trying to navigate life in the embassy during one of the most tumultuous times in Vietnam's history. Michael's foray into the war-torn country starts with a visit to the local church, where he befriends Father Kevin McDaniel and a certain Mr. Tu, who he later learns is the president's brother. After losing his friends to a Vietcong bombing of the local softball field, Michael loses his childhood innocence. With a strict controlling father and a neglectful mother at home, Michael finds respite with his Vietnamese friends and Samantha, the daughter of a US diplomat. But the upcoming political turmoil changes everything.
Saigon is a coming-of-age tale set during the Vietnam war that explores the impact of war on people's lives and how it changes their life trajectories. Author Ralph Pezzullo never shies away from showcasing the brutal aspects of war and uses vivid descriptions and imagery to capture the horrors. The narrative incorporates not only the Vietnam war but also the Buddhist monk protests against the Diem regime, including the monk immolations, and later the coup that overthrew the government. Michael's evolution from a naive young teen to someone who values empathy amid war is one of the primary highlights of the book. If you love reading war stories or coming-of-age tales, grab yourself a copy of Saigon by Ralph Pezzullo.