Featuring two of the most memorable characters I’ve read about in quite some time, THE AMERICAN resists genre pigeon-holes. A haunting mystery with supernatural overtones, maybe ghosts, and maybe psychic powers, but definitely murder, sex trafficking, and the true meaning of friendship. I know it sounds crazy, but shake them all up together, and you have THE AMERICAN.
An American tunnel rat during the Vietnam war, (Trenor) and the man who saved his life, (Quan), remain friends long after the war is over and Trenor returns home to the U.S. Quan remains in Vietnam, marries and starts a family. Many years later, Quan is now trying to find his two missing daughters and the only people he hasn’t yet alienated are his son, Thanh, and Trenor. How does all of this come together resulting in a tightly written, suspenseful mystery/thriller/ghost story? You’ll have to read this to find out!
I’ve been a fan of Jeffrey Thomas for a few years now, mostly through reading his short stories and a few novellas. When he approached asking if I was interested in reading THE AMERICAN, I immediately and blindly, said yes. It wasn’t too long before I discovered this wasn’t Mr. Thomas’ usual fare. That didn’t bother me at all, however, because I soon realized that he’s a wonderful writer, no matter what genre and no matter the length of the story.
Alternating between different timelines and different countries, at first I found the story to be a bit confusing. It wasn’t long though, before clarity came, and I was rooting for these men to be successful in their endeavors. It becomes painfully clear throughout that sex trafficking is a major form of income in Vietnam, none of which goes to its victims. Young boys and girls are used and used hard, until they’re all used up-if they survive that long. There is no one to speak for them. It’s all ignored, or taken as part of life. It’s heart-breaking.
The characters here: the trafficking victims, Quan and Trenor and Quan’s family….you can’t help but to root for them. They’ve all been through hell and all they’re asking for is a fair shot at life. In the end, aren’t these types of characters the ones we love the most? I can only speak for myself, and my response is YES. Yes, they are.
I’ll be thinking about Quan, Trenor and Thanh for a long time. (Tra Mi and Hang Ni, even longer.)
*I was provided an e-copy of this novel in exchange for my honest feedback. This is it. *