Macmillan Audio. Oct. 2023. 10:07 hrs. ISBN 9781250911094. $26.99. F
In 1963, passive newlywed Patricia follows her oil engineer husband to Saigon, where she meets Charlene, a corporate wife who has her fingers everywhere as she devises plans to help sick and injured Vietnamese children. Patricia also meets Ly, a young Vietnamese seamstress employed as Charlene’s house girl. After Ly (who has been misnamed as Lily by her employer) skillfully makes a traditional Vietnamese áo dài dress for the Barbie doll of Charlene’s daughter Rainey, Charlene pulls Patricia into one of the first of many schemes: selling “Saigon Barbies” to the elite to fund gift baskets for the Vietnamese children. Rachel Kenney and Jesse Vilinsky skillfully voice Patricia and adult Rainey, respectively, as they narrate this complex epistolary story. Kenney’s young Patricia exudes naivete and subservience as she involuntarily becomes more involved in Charlene’s altruistic white savior machinations. In contrast, her older Patricia wearily reflects on her time of privilege and personal sorrow. Meanwhile, Rainey’s relationship with Charlene isn’t elaborated upon, as her brief, present-day storyline is about moving after retirement.
VERDICT Listeners will question whether anyone has absolution by the end, making this a promising prospect for book clubs but challenging for those who listen to historical fiction with a contemporary lens.
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