Publication Year: 2010
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
When readers first met American photographer Helen Adams, it’s Vietnam 1975. Adams and her lover, Linh are fleeing Saigon. As they make their way through the city to the American embassy, chaos is all around them. They’re not the only ones fleeing. After making it to the embassy, Helen makes a sudden decision though it may be one that kills her. Before readers can find out what happens, we need to understand Helen’s decision.
Readers are transported twelve years before when Helen arrives in Vietnam as an amateur photographer. Haunted by the death of her younger brother Michael who died the year before in Vietnam, Helen wants to know what the country is like and why are Americans there. She wants to become famous, proving something to herself and those she left behind back home. In her words, “failure is not an option”. Placed in combat zones, Helen thrives with her photos making the cover of magazines all over the world. Falling in love with famed photographer Sam Durrow changes things.
The Lotus Eaters is the debut novel from writer Tatjana Soli but once you read it, you wouldn’t think it was. The characters are believable, there’s a ton of passages you are going to want to underline or note for their beauty, and the setting. . . The setting is so realistic you’ll think you were in Vietnam.
Helen is a great character to follow. She’s filled with doubts about whether or not her photography can help change things, whether she’s becoming the person she wants to be, and her relationship with Darrow then Linh.
Looking around, she wondered how she had gotten there, why she needed this. Such a cliché to expose the war, or even wanting to test oneself against it. Whatever else, the place was a magnet for evil, or had they, Americans, brought it with them, like European colonists brought pox in their blankets to the New World? Nothing she would do, including photographs, could have any effect on it. Such a nunnish urge to find purpose or clarity or even to bring ease. Since she had arrived, she had merely been running from illusion to illusion-by turns obsessed, deluded, needy, full of herself, thinking she had achieved some small understand. . . but not she was simply lonely and tired and confused.
There’s so much that’s explored in this 300+ paged book. Our treatment of one another, the psychological, emotionally, and physical cost of war of those affected by it, cultural differences, grief, and obsession.
The Lotus Eaters is a book that I highly recommend.