Reviewed by Kimberly Luyckx for Reader Views (7/18)
“The Last Surviving Child” is the label that author, Thuy Rocco, gives herself in this memoir of a family torn apart by the Vietnam War. When the communist regime discovers that her father’s business is affiliated with the US military, Thuy’s wealthy parents are forced to relinquish their property and flee their homeland or face torture and prison camp. Eventually, the family becomes separated and Thuy and her mother are left behind as the sole survivors. This is the story of how they forge a path to save themselves.
Many of the stories that Thuy Rocco has assembled come from her Vietnamese mother and refugee. It is a log of the difficulties they faced escaping their country and searching for a better life. Some of the accounts represent the author’s own childhood recollections. These narrations are supplemented with imaginative poetry and youthful illustrations. The backdrop they provide is enchanting and adds wonderful flavor to the anecdotes presented. Even the book’s subtitles remind me of a grade school chapter book in their straightforwardness and character.
Because the tales are narrated from a young child’s point of view, there is a beautiful sense of wonder amidst the sadness. There is pride in Thuy’s voice as she recounts the brave missions her mother undertakes to keep her alive when there is no money, food or medical care to be had. She blatantly describes the bullying and sexual abuse episodes she experiences. When she accepts them as a product of being an impoverished foreigner, you truly feel her desperation and hopelessness.
The racist viewpoint is also communicated effectively in Thuy’s stories. As a child, she is a direct witness to the disgust that her new American home has for her and her culture. It is revealing to receive her perspective especially in this time when borders are being squeezed and outsiders are regarded as objects.
The most impressive part of Thuy’s book is her final chapter, A Recipe for Survival. In it, she shares the wisdom she has accumulated over such as short period. It is remarkable how poetic, clear and convincing her words flow across the page. The author advocates for others in a way that makes you want to stand up and shout, “yes!”
“The Last Surviving Child,” is a record of one family’s search for refuge following the end of the Vietnam War. As the surviving child, Thuy Rocco is her mother’s lifeline when they are ripped from their war-torn country. This book is a collection of a young girl’s memories of hard work and diligence in a hostile environment. I recommend this short read to anyone questioning why people leave their countries to seek other opportunities. It is a reminder of how fortunate many of us are to have shelter, food and a relative degree of safety. But this memoir will also appeal to those that have been slighted in life, those that have been bullied, repressed or neglected. Rocco’s story will give you strength to press on through the darkness and look for the rays of light.