…by Nam Le.
‘The Boat’ is a collection of 7 short stories of individuals across the globe. The author is a Vietnamese-born Australian who also spends his time in America. His stories are not just of Vietnamese or Australians but rather of different ethnic groups across different countries. There is the struggling author and his difficult relationship with his Vietnamese father; a hitman in Colombia who is just a teenager and his struggles with having to kill his friend; an aging painter and his relationship with an estranged daughter; the young Aussie teenager at Halfhead Bay; the American woman struggling with her friendship in Iran; and finally, a group of Vietnamese people on The Boat escaping war-torn Vietnam and the trials and tribulations faced by one young girl estranged from her family.
The stories all revolve around characters facing some kind of pressure in their lives and attempting to deal with these whilst trying to attain some form of control. Two stories that stood out for me were ‘Cartagena’ and ‘The Boat’. The former is the one with the teenage hitman in Colombia and the emotions and struggles kept me on edge all the way through. The latter, which is the last story in the book, is about the “boat people” escaping Vietnam and looking for better lives but at the same time, taking extreme measures to get there. In many ways, it was heart-wrenching. Especially in this day when there is a big deal being made about people arriving on Australian shores by boat, it gives us an insight into the difficulties faced to get here.
There were other stories though that didn’t grip me as much…they seemed to have great beginnings but faltered somewhere. I think it was more about the characters than the plots themselves.
All in all, a decent read.