The Man from Saigon

Written by Marti Leimbach
Review by Mary F. Burns

An absorbing, often gripping novel of a young woman reporter on tour in war-torn Vietnam in 1967, The Man from Saigon is gritty, realistic and poetically written. Leimbach is a master at describing the visceral: the humidity and heat of the jungle, the ache of hunger, the recoil of the body and the brain under fire, the insanity that comes from being surrounded by bombs falling for hours and bullets like hot rain.

The protagonist, Susan, works for a woman’s magazine in Chicago and is sent to the war to gather human interest stories. She’s not supposed to leave Saigon, but of course she does. She gets drawn in to the addiction of war reporting, inching ever closer to the heavy action while putting light years of distance between her and the ‘normalcy’ of life back in the States—until life in the war zone becomes what’s normal. Two men, the Vietnamese photographer of the book’s title, and another reporter, an American, weave in and out of Susan’s mental, emotional and physical existence in a country too far from home.

The images are often disturbing, but the insights into war and human frailty, love and courage are meaningful and intelligent. An excellent read.