Book Review: "A Wedding Invitation" by Alice Wisler
Summary from BN.com: After returning home from teaching English at a refugee camp in the Philippines, Samantha Bravencourt enjoys her quiet life working at her mother's clothing boutique in Falls Church, Virginia. When she receives an invitation to a wedding in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, she looks forward to reconnecting with her college friend. Instead her life collides with Carson, a fellow teacher and the man who broke her heart, and a young Amerasian refugee named Lien who needs Samantha and Carson's help to find her mother before Lien's own wedding. When the search for Lien's mother reveals surprising secrets from the past, Samantha must reevaluate her own memories and decide whether to continue to play it safe or take a risk that could change her life.
This book had win written all over it. One, I love the simplicity, beauty and uniqueness of the cover. Two, Alice Wisler is a fantastic writer. Three, the story is set (well half of it) in Northern Virginia near where I live. Four, the book has Asian characters in an adult Christian novel. The fourth one may seem strange for me to point out but believe me, this is a huge thing for me. So with this combination, I knew that I was going to enjoy this book.
This story takes place in the 1990s and follows Samantha, a young woman who works with her mother in the DC area. Her current life seems pretty normal but her past reveals that she worked in the Philippines helping out young Amerasian children in transition. A wedding invitation finds her traveling to a wedding of an old friend (or so she thinks) and begins an adventure that brings her past to her present. The whole wrong wedding bit was just crazy! What are the odds of that happening? (I'm sparing details so not to spoil things) Talk about being incredibly awkward. But it's a good thing that happened because it set the ball in motion for all the other things to happen in Samantha's life.
I don't think that I have read many books that deal with Amerasian characters from the Vietnam War. To be honest, I actually didn't know much about the situation in general as sadly high school history stops at WWII and I didn't take any classes in college dealing with the Vietnam War. It was really sad to learn about the number of children produced from failed relationships American soldiers and Vietnamese women. The soldiers left the country never looking back leaving behind children who were now outcasts. They were mistreated badly for something they had no control over. Interestingly, just a few days ago I saw a news story about an Amerasian man who found his Vietnamese birth mother after he had been sent over to the US when he was a young child in the 70s after the war.
Something I found interesting (or maybe I just missed it) was that Lien does not search for her birth father. I'm not sure if she had his information and that could have been why she didn't do it but it almost seemed like that would have been more easier to find than her mother. On that note, I do wonder what it must have been like for those American soldiers who fathered the children and then just left. Did they know they had children? Did they ever wonder what happened to them? Did they just forget? If anyone knows of a book from that perspective, I would love some recommendations.
Overall, this book was an absolute gem to read. Wisler skillfully takes the reader from Samantha's past to her present as we learn more about her, her work and the relationships in her life. The story is beautifully written and extremely informative as well. As I said, I was thrilled to see Asian characters in the story and even more pleased that no stereotypes were used at all. Faith is an integral part of the story but it doesn't feel forced on the reader. Instead it is just portrayed in the lives of the characters. This is a wonderful book and I am looking forward to Wisler's next one as well.