The Missionary’s Son

Written by Rod G. Harmon
Review by J. Lynn Else

Frank’s father is a missionary serving in Shanghai. During the 1930s, hostilities are escalating quickly between the Chinese and Japanese. In their attempt to escape the city and return to England, the family’s cars are shot by a Japanese armored vehicle, and Frank gets separated. Believing his family dead and on his own, 11-year-old Frank will traverse war zones as he searches for a road home.

This book could use a read-through by a professional editor to eliminate some of the redundancy (internal thoughts turned to dialogue; repetitious themes) and help with transitions between third- and first-person narratives so the story flows smoothly. The jumps forward in time are also quite sudden. Additionally, there are a few word mix-ups including character names (Chen instead of Dong) and terms (confronting instead of comforting) that an editor could help vet out.

That said, this is a very good story. It’s a haunting character-driven ride in which Harmon guides readers through the chaotic streets of 1920s and 30s Shanghai and surrounding areas. The events are well-drawn and compassionately told with excellent characterization. My favorite character, hands down, was Amah. Chen also provides a heartfelt counterpoint to Amah and Frank’s emotional journeys of self-discovery and acceptance. After some fine-tuning, I’d highly recommend it.