Author: Libby Fischer Hellmann
Narrator: Robin Rowan
Length: 11 hours 19 minutes
Publisher: The Red Herrings Press
Released: Oct. 13, 2020
Genre: Historical Fiction
In 1968 two young Vietnamese sisters flee to Saigon after their village on the Mekong River is attacked by American forces and burned to the ground. The only survivors of the brutal massacre that killed their family, the sisters struggle to survive but become estranged, separated by sharply different choices and ideologies. Mai ekes out a living as a GI bar girl, but Tam’s anger festers, and she heads into jungle terrain to fight with the Viet Cong. For nearly 10 years, neither sister knows if the other is alive. Do they both survive the war? And if they do, can they mend their fractured relationship? Or are the wounds from their journeys too deep to heal? In a stunning departure from her crime thrillers, Libby Fischer Hellmann delves into a universal story about survival, family, and the consequences of war.
Libby Fischer Hellmann left a career in broadcast news in Washington, DC and moved to Chicago over 35 years ago, where she, naturally, began to write gritty crime fiction. Fifteen novels and twenty-five short stories later, she claims they’ll take her out of the Windy City feet first. She has been nominated for many awards in the mystery and crime writing community and has even won a few. She has been a finalist twice for the Anthony and four times for Foreword Magazine’s Book of the Year. She has also been nominated for the Agatha, the Shamus, the Daphne, and has won the IPPY and the Readers Choice Award multiple times. Her novels include the now five-volume Ellie Foreman series, which she describes as a cross between “Desperate Housewives” and “24;” the hard-boiled 5-volume Georgia Davis PI series, and four stand-alone historical thrillers set during Revolutionary Iran, Cuba, the Sixties, and WW2. Her short stories have been published in a dozen anthologies, the Saturday Evening Post, and Ed Gorman’s “25 Criminally Good Short Stories” collection. Her books have been translated into Spanish, German, Italian, and Chinese. All her books are available in print, ebook, and audiobook. Libby also hosts Second Sunday Crime, a monthly podcast where she interviews bestselling and emerging crime authors. In 2006 she was the National President of Sisters in Crime, a 3500 member organization committed to the advancement of female crime fiction authors.
Robin is a voiceover veteran with more than three decades of experience, beginning in radio in the 1970s. Her voice is warm, low and rich, perfect for healthcare and documentaries. She also has narrated more than 70 audio books, so she has extensive experience with different voices and accents.
If You Liked The Nightingale, You’ll Love A Bend In The River
Libby Fischer HellmannKristin Hannah’s The Nightingale, published in 2017 (and soon to be a major film) is a megahit novel about two sisters in occupied France during World War Two. For me it was the the kind of story for which you cancel all your other chores, plans, and activities so you can spend the day reading. Not only is it a beautifully written book, but I’m a sucker for WW2 novels. For me, World War Two was the last time in which there were clear heroes and cowards. We knew the enemy, and we knew it was not us. Another reason I loved it was that it was set in France, which is probably my favorite European country. I took French in high school with the dream of going to France through the Experiment in International Living. I did go, and spent a magical summer in Nice and all over the country. The two sisters, one timid, the other more impetuous, were very different from each other, but both turned out to be quiet heroes themselves. They had lost their mother, which made them both closer to each other despite their differences. One even ended up in the US decades after the war. Most of all, I loved the suspense, the never-ending obstacles with which each sister had to contend. Plus there was an over-arching mystery not revealed until the end which made me both shed a tear and smile with satisfaction. Never in a million years did I think I would ever write a book including even one or two of the elements I’ve just described. Then in 2019 I went to Vietnam as a tourist, and it all changed. I was in a Saigon art gallery looking for something to buy when I saw the two girls who are now on the cover of A Bend In The River, and I immediately knew I was going to write a story about their survival during the Vietnam War. I also knew that I was going to put aside the crime fiction I normally write for a historical novel that had no crime at its heart, unless you consider war to be a crime. Just as World War Two shaped modern Europe, the Vietnam war shaped that country. Both wars were fought for very different reasons. I wasn’t alive during WW2, but I protested against the Vietnam war in college and thought I knew it all. War was wrong. Our government was wrong for sanctioning it, and the soldiers fighting it should have refused. Of course, I was naïve and arrogant back then. The Vietnam war was a civil war between North, which was Communist, and the South, which was bitterly opposed to it. The French had colonized the country for over a century, but they left after they lost a battle in the early Fifties. The US took their place. We aided the south because of the “Domino Theory, which made us fearful that if Vietnam became Communist, so would the rest of Southeast Asia. It hasn’t happened. But I didn’t realize until I’d finished the book how many elements of The Nightingale were incorporated into Bend. Sisters surviving a war against an invading country. Sisters overcoming existential obstacles to survive, sometimes turning into heroes. Sisters who were so different from each other that they were estranged for a decade. Sisters who’d lost their mother (and the rest of their family), sisters who eventually immigrated to the US. I have no illusions that A Bend In The River will ever or should be compared to The Nightingale. But I can understand now how deeply Kristin Hannah’s book inspired me. I hope you will enjoy the read. Differences:
- Bend less mystery more saga
- 1 sister fights for “enemy”
- Asia vs Europe – not world war but civil war
- No medals
- Father is alive in Nightingale
- Sister who fights not as selfless
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