Friday, October 26, 2012

The Headmaster's Wager by Vincent Lam

As a young man Chen Pie Sou (later Pecival Chen) fled his home in China to escape the Japanese invasion. He eventually arrived in Vietnam where he used his Western style education to start an English language school. In the 1960’s, as the United States became more involved in the affairs of Vietnam, Chen’s school attracted many students and Chen became a wealthy man. Secure in the knowledge that bribery could solve any problem, Chen ignored politics and the increasingly intrusive war, until his son was arrested for making a futile political protest. Chen borrowed heavily for the steep bribes demanded for his release. Fearful for his son’s safety and ignorant of the politics of his homeland, Chen sent him to China in the middle of Chairman Mao’s Cultural Revolution. He managed to recoup his wealth with high-stakes gambling and continued to enjoy the pleasures afforded to the rich and powerful in Vietnam.  Not until the war is lost and the Americans leave Vietnam does Chen realize the folly and danger of his willful ignorance. By then it is too late to help his son in China and he and his second family cannot escape Vietnam. The danger to them is so great, he is forced to risk his younger son’s future in a dangerous scheme, his biggest gamble ever.  Check out this suspenseful read @the library!