I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own.
A grieving mother who lost her son to the Vietnam War learns years later that the ashes given to her by the military may not belong to her son after all, leading her to a journey of discovery that will leave her and readers shocked in author Nick Lombardi Jr.’s novel “The Plain of Jars”.
2014 Dayton Literary Peace Prize entry!
What would you do if you found that the bones and ashes you were given by the Air Force were not the remains of your loved one? Dorothy Kozeny, a 64-year-old widow from a small town in Ohio, after getting no answers from the relevant authorities, decides the only thing to do is to go to Laos herself to search for the truth concerning her son’s fate. In 1990, accompanied by a trusted Laotian called Kampeng, Dorothy travels deep into the mountains of rural Laos, attempting to trace her son’s path through inhospitable terrain, an unforgettable trek that provides her with a rewarding, often humorous, and at times frustrating, cross-cultural experience. All clues lead her to a mysterious figure, an alleged CIA operative left over from the war, living in a remote and hostile area deep in the jungle. The second part of the book traces the life of this enigmatic character hiding in Laos, the two main characters linked through Dorothy’s son.
This was a powerful and emotional story that focused on the pain and loss families feel for loved ones lost to war, the horrors many soldiers witness and are forced to become a part of during war, the injustices committed during the Vietnam War, and the struggle to let go of violence and hatred to lead a more peaceful and happy life.
While the story did a great job of showcasing both the more modern day struggle of a mother looking for her long thought dead son and the past of the son’s journey through a hellish war, his attempt to escape it, and those who ruthlessly fought to stop him, the true heart of this novel was the backdrop of Laos and the Plain of Jars themselves.
Those unfamiliar with the history of this area and site should know that during the Vietnam war, more bombs were dropped by the U.S. Military on the Plain of Jars in Laos than in the entirety of WWII, and over 80 million of these bombs remain a constant danger to the people there as they failed to detonate at the time and remain hidden in the area. This story highlighted the struggle of the people of Laos and the horrors they and the soldiers in the country bore witness to during this war. The savagery in which soldiers and operatives were trained to become monsters, and the struggle to use peace and non-violence to combat that savagery, took a major portion of this book and readers will instantly connect with the characters as a result of this particular piece of the story.
This was a gut-wrenching, heartbreaking, impactful and engaging read that fans will not want to miss. Author Nick Lombardi Jr. does it again with this memorable story that captures the era and history of this devastating war, and brings to life the unpleasant truths of the loss and pain it caused on both sides. In the end however, what truly stood out amongst all of this horror and heartbreak was the love and passion for which a mother fought to either find her son or at least get the truth of his passing out for the world to see. A mother’s love can be felt in every chapter of Dorothy’s tale, and makes her son Andrew’s backstory all the more powerful. If you haven’t yet, be sure to grab your copy of Nick Lombardi Jr.’s novel “The Plain of Jars” today!
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About the Author
Author Nick Lombardi Jr. has spent over half his life in Africa, Asia, and the Middle East, and he speaks five languages. An event in California in 2011 in which a homeless man was beaten to death lead Nick to write his newest novel, Justice Gone. Nick now lives in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.