Book Review: When Heaven Fell

Binh is a poor girl living in Vietnam.  To support her family, Binh sells fruit and sodas on the side of the road, when what she would really like to do is go to school like the boys and girls who buy her wares.

When her grandmother reveals that she has another daughter, Di Hai (Eldest Aunt), Binh is at first confused.  Why has she never heard about this aunt?  Then her grandmother explains that she gave Di Hai up for adoption in America because Di was is danger from the Communists at the end of the war.  But now Di has found her mother again and is coming to visit her family.

Binh and her family become convinced that Di Hai is rich, like the Americans in the movies that they sometimes watch at the Movie Cafe.  Since all Americans are rich, they reason, Di Hai will be able to solve all their problems: They will eat meat every day, have nice things to wear, Binh and her cousins will go to school, and Di might even buy Binh’s older brother the motorcycle he’s always dreamed of.

Their anticipated gifts get bigger by the day, but Di Hai is a teacher and doesn’t get paid much.  How can she live up to her family’s expectations?

When Heaven Fell is an interesting look at how one family reacts to an unknown person.  Carolyn Marsden writes well, and I like her other books, but this one is not her best.  How Binh’s family reacts to the news about Di Hai is too sudden, too blatant, and unrealistic. Though I have to admit that people might act that way, the situation felt rushed for the book.  Nevertheless, I enjoyed When Heaven Fell, and I look forward to reading some of Marsden’s other books.


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