Publisher's Weekly, April, 2019
Based on a real-life journey, this fictional account in verse by Russell (Tofu Quilt) details the harrowing 13-month flight of an 11-year-old ethnic Chinese refugee from Vietnam, beginning in May 1979 during the Vietnamese boat people exodus. Lam’s mother buys passage for Lam and her two brothers to make their way to their father (who previously escaped the newly Communist country for San Francisco), but when her older brother is arrested en route to the boat, Lam is suddenly in charge of her seven-year-old sibling Dee Dee. In a straightforward voice, she narrates the relentlessly repugnant, often tragic details of the ordeal—pirates, lack of potable water, a corpse aboard. What emerges most prominently is the strong bonds that form among the passenger community, tied together not only by their conditions, both at sea and in refugee camps in Malaysia and Indonesia, but by shared anxiety about their future. Kindness and generosity—a refugee family takes Lam and Dee Dee under their wing—even in the face of selfishness and betrayal, mark Lam’s story, as do her resilience and growing maturity. An opening historical note and map provide necessary context, and an epilogue from the actual Lam makes for a reassuring close. Ages 10–14. Agent: Adria Goetz, Martin Literary Management.
Reviews of House Without Walls