Set in the turbulence of Southeast Asia in the early 1970’s and continuing into the early 1980’s as the main characters adjust to the realities of living in America, Mohana Rajakumar’s newest novel The Opposite of Hate is a well written tale of the challenges and opportunities immigrants from that part of the world in the aftermath of American involvement in that part of the world.
The novel begins in late 1973 in a changing Laos where Seng, married to flight attendant Qui, a well-educated Vietnamese who supports the Communist regime, is navigating the increasingly turbulent change in Laos as the Pathet Lao grew in power and influence as family members are being arrested and taken to “re-education camps.” When Qui, who returns to flying after giving birth to their child, is killed in an Air America airplane crash, Seng makes the decision, based on his known association with the USAID, to flee into Thailand. But as he makes his plans to leave, a quickly arranged marriage to Neela is made, and he crosses to Thailand as a newly married man. And together then begin a journey of hardship with slivers of hope which eventually gets them to America and a new life that eventually starts to come apart.
The result is a novel which takes the reader back to a turbulent time in history and shows in a very close up and personal way the effects of war and war’s upheaval on people. The characters are strong and real and Rajakumar clearly sketches the emotional intensity of refugees and immigrants.
This novel caught my interest right away and I was immediately drawn into the story.
I rate The Opposite of Hate an “outstanding” read.
Note: I received an e-copy of this book from the author in exchange for a fair and honest review.