Book Review: Dragon House by John Shors

dragonhouseTitle: Dragon House
Author: John Shors
Genre: Contemporary fiction
Publisher: New American Library
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Source: Signed copy from the author.
First line: The hospital room looked as ill as the patient it housed.

Growing up, Iris always knew that a part of her father was missing – the part he had left in Vietnam. As a way of atoning for his part in the Vietnam conflict, he starts plans for a center for Vietnamese street children – but cancer takes his life before it is complete. Iris wants to make sure his dream happens, and also wants to know the country that had such a hold on him.

Her childhood friend, Noah, accompanies her to Vietnam to help with the center. As a veteran of the current war in Iraq, he has lost a leg and a friend, and all of his joy and faith in mankind. He only accompanies Iris because his mother wants him to – and because he has nothing else to do.

Together, Iris and Noah discover a country that, in some ways, is still feeling the effects of a war that happened a generation ago. Their lives become entwined with the people they meet: Thien, who has helped Iris’s father in his quest to open the center; Qui and her granddaughter, Tam, who is dying because she was too poor for cancer treatment; Minh and Mai, two children held in the grips of the evil Loc, who forces them to beg to keep him in money for prostitutes and opium; Sanh, a policeman who has a long-standing hatred for the American soldiers who took his family from him.

Noah and Iris become determined to save Qui and Tam, Mai and Minh – in spite of the danger it puts them in from Loc. As they begin to move past their own hurts and histories, they discover the work they were destined for.

After reading Beside a Burning Sea, I knew that I would be seeking out more of John Shors’ work. When he offered to send me a copy of Dragon House to review, I responded with an enthusiastic “yes!” – and I’m glad I did.

The characters of Iris and Noah became so real to me as I read. My heart especially ached for Noah, and the anger and bitterness and constant pain that he suffered as a result of the Iraq war. As he works on the center and meets children whose circumstances are worse than his, his own pain becomes less important – and he discovers that he is still able to love.

Dragon House is not an easy book to read. It is beautifully written and the characters are so real – and that is what made it difficult. I came to love these characters, and reading the details of the abuse and privation they suffered was heartbreaking. And knowing that there are thousands – if not millions – of children in countries around the world that live in such conditions … well, it’s not something that’s fun to think about. But it is something that is important to think about – and not just think about, but to do something about. John Shors is doing something by sending a portion of his proceeds from this book to Blue Dragon, an organize that helps feed, clothe, house, and educate the street children of Vietnam. Click on the link to find out how you can help.

And many thanks to Mr. Shors for the opportunity to read this amazing book.

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19 Responses to Book Review: Dragon House by John Shors

  1. Sandy
    Twitter: youvegottaread

    This one has definitely gotten some really good press around here lately. He also gives a great interview. Great review!
    .-= Sandy´s last blog ..Wordless Wednesday – Christmas in Indiana #3 =-.

    • CarrieK
      Twitter: booksandmovies

      Sandy – yes, he does give a wonderful interview – it’s a pleasure to get to know an author who makes himself so accessible to his readers.

  2. Oh, I love this book. I want it. I’ll have to trip over to Amazon and pick one up. I like that the author has tied in the Vietnam war with the current debacle in Iraq. And I like that this book isn’t just about the war, but about the people and about making the world better.

    Thanks, Carrie, for this one 🙂
    .-= The Kool-Aid Mom´s last blog ..Weird Things From Google Alerts =-.

    • CarrieK
      Twitter: booksandmovies

      Kool-Aid Mom – I hope you see John’s comment, so you can get your hands on a copy!

  3. Serena (Savvy Verse & Wit)
    Twitter: SavvyVerseWit

    I really enjoyed this book as well and you are write there are parts that are very hard to read, but well worth it. I believe we are counting this toward the Vietnam War Reading Challenge because of the parallels with the Vietnam War, etc. We’ll have a link to your review posted soon.
    .-= Serena (Savvy Verse & Wit)´s last blog ..International Winner of When She Flew =-.

  4. Stephanie says:

    I have Beside a Burning Sea waiting to be read right now–it looks really good! Assuming I like it, I’ll be reading Dragon House soon after.
    .-= Stephanie´s last blog ..Teaser Tuesday: East of Eden =-.

  5. Kathy says:

    I just won a copy of this book and I’m really anxious to read it.
    .-= Kathy´s last blog ..Wondrous Words Wednesday =-.

  6. Anna says:

    I’ve heard a lot of good things about this book, and I hope to read it at some point.
    .-= Anna´s last blog ..Interview With Jamie Ford, Author of HOTEL ON THE CORNER OF BITTER AND SWEET =-.

    • CarrieK
      Twitter: booksandmovies

      Anna – I’ve read so many great reviews of it – and they are well-deserved.

  7. John Shors says:

    Thanks, Carrie, for your nice review! I’m glad that you enjoyed Dragon House! And thank you, everyone else, for the generous comments. I have a few kind of beat-up copies of Dragon House in my office (thank you, UPS, for the great delivery!). I’m happy to send people a signed copy, if they in turn, spread the word about the book. Right now Dragon House is helping to support 500 street children in Vietnam, so the more exposure the book gets, the more children I’ll be able to help. If you want a signed copy, please email me at shors at I have six copies left, so I’ll have to do this on a first-come, first-serve basis. I hope it’s okay for me to post this message. I’m just trying to help more street children, and want to make the most of every book. I hate to waste them. Best wishes, everyone! -John

  8. Pingback: The Sunday Salon – January 31, 2010 (the “January reading wrap-up” edition) | BOOKS AND MOVIES

  9. Cheryl says:

    Sounds like a great book – I must add it to my list for the Vietnam War challenge. Thanks for the great review.
    .-= Cheryl´s last blog ..Geese =-.

  10. carmen says:

    This work is absolutely thought provoking on so many levels – over indulgence vs.fighting for mere existence, war vs. humanity, sorrow vs. hope, It is just an awesome read and hopefully will challenge readers to take action. Character developement is rival to some of the best (1000 Splendid Suns). Reinforced my belief that the fact I can’t solve every problem is not a license to do nothing.