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Authors: David Bergen

Tags: #Literary, #Historical, #Sagas, #Fiction

The Time in Between

BOOK: The Time in Between
9.02Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

Table of Contents

Title Page
















About the Author


Copyright Page

To Tran Cau and Hoang Dang

Praise for
The Time In Between

“Devastating and powerful . . . elegantly crafted . . . [Bergen is] a writer who senses that some things—passion, violence—can be understood only by traveling outside one’s comfort zone and traversing the far edges of reason.” —
The San Diego Union-Tribune

“Exquisite . . . With simple sentences, evocative images and subtle insights into elusive emotional states, the words don’t merely tell a story; they become poetry.” —Baltimore

Named a Best Book of the Year by the
St. Louis Post-Dispatch

“Intense . . . haunting . . . a profound meditation on human disconnection.” —Seattle Post-Intelligencer

“Spellbinding.” —
The Sunday Oklahoman

“Brilliant . . . a literary triumph . . . One of the most important books written about the impact of the Vietnam War on both the Americans who served and the Vietnamese.” —
Deseret Morning News
(Best Books of 2005)

“This is a book of searching. . . . Part war story in an extended sense, but part expatriate novel, too, as if
A Farewell to Arms
The Sun Also Rises
had been rolled into one.” —
Chicago Tribune

“Beautiful and timely . . . rich and rewarding . . . a sparse and moving meditation on the burden of war across generations.” —
San Francisco Chronicle
(Editors Recommend)

“A beautifully composed, unflinching and harrowing story. Perhaps the best fiction yet to confront and comprehend the legacy of Vietnam.” —
Kirkus Reviews
(starred review)

“Affecting . . . delicate . . . At the end of this lovely novel, it is Ada and her siblings who are left searching, and the reader along with them.” —
The Wall Street Journal

“The Vietnam War has been the inspiration for scores of novels, but Bergen’s fifth book is one of the most moving we’ve encountered.” —
The Sacramento Bee

“Powerful . . . a beautifully crafted meditation on the frustrating search for emotional clarity . . . [This] simmering novel will mesmerize readers with the intensity of its vision.” —

“Haunting and dreamlike . . . The author writes with a certain delicacy of description. . . . [He] preserves the exquisiteness of the Vietnamese culture, lending a unique beauty to the story. Highly recommended.” —
Library Journal

“Luminous . . . In this meditation on the aftereffects of violence and failed human connection, Bergen’s austere prose illustrates the arbitrary nature of life’s defining moments.” —
Publishers Weekly

“A spare, suspenseful meditation on the long reach of war—to the places where it is fought, the people who fight it, and the people who love those people. In portraying the lingering devastation left in one soldier’s life by a war he fought a generation ago, Bergen’s novel could not be timelier or more chilling.” —JENNIFER EGAN, author of
Look at Me

The Time In Between
is about how children inherit their parents’ ghosts and about the elusive nature of grace. It also makes a stunning connection between the wars that are fought out in the world and the ones that cleave families in private. Ravishingly told and deeply felt, it’s a huge accomplishment.” —MICHAEL REDHILL, author of
Martin Sloane

“Bergen is a master of taut, spare prose that’s both erotic and hypnotic.
The Time In Between
is a deeply moving meditation on love and loss, truth and its elusiveness, and a compelling portrait of a haunted man and his daughter.” —MIRIAM TOEWS, author of
A Complicated Kindness

“Intelligent, humane, deep in its sympathetic understanding, David Bergen’s novel explores the haunted life of the Boatman family in the aftermath of the Vietnam War. There is in this novel not a single sentimental or euphemistic line; and because the writing is honest, the characters are real, and their struggle as a family has the ring of truth.” —DONALD PFARRER, author of
The Fearless Man

“In this elegant novel, David Bergen weaves a precise and resonant prose through the connected histories of people touched by love, death, and war. A lovely, sad, and ultimately redeeming work of fiction.” —BRADY UDALL, author of
The Miracle Life of Edgar Mint


THE TYPHOON ARRIVED THAT NIGHT. ADA WOKE TO THE SOUND of rain driving against the windows. Above them, on the rooftop, chairs fell and banged against the washstand. The corrugated tin on the stairwell roof worked loose and flapped for an hour before it broke free and fell like a whirling blade down onto the street. Ada was standing at the window watching the palm trees bend in the wind and she saw the tin roofing fly by and land on the tennis courts in the distance. The power went out and then flickered on and finally cut out completely. Ada woke Jon, her brother, who had returned while she was sleeping, and she held his hand and said, “I’m frightened.”

He sat up and said, “It’s a small storm. Don’t worry.”

She could smell sex on him; sometimes the smell was musty and bleachy but tonight it was sweat and the slightest hint of old saliva. That smell. She stood and walked across the room. “The boats are coming in,” she said. “They know something we don’t. I’ve counted thirty already.”

The wind pulled at the hotel sign and threw it onto the street below.

“Get away from the window,” Jon said. “The glass could fall in.”

She sat at the edge of his bed and he held her hand and they listened. The wind arrived from out of the sky and from across the ocean and it seemed that it would never end, until it slid away, a deceptive and distant howl, and then returned just as quickly, banging against the trees and buildings, and everything loose was pulled into the maelstrom. She wanted it to stop. She began to shiver and even though Jon was beside her she felt very much alone.

“Look at us. We’re so stupid,” she said.

“Here,” Jon said, and he made her lie down and he covered her. He held his hands over her ears and put his thumbs against her eyes until the hollow core of the typhoon descended. And with that awful stillness came the everyday sounds: the clock on the bureau; something, perhaps a rat, moving about on the rooftop; the dry cough of the old man below them; the song of a woman calling again and again.

“It’s gone,” Ada said.

Jon said it would return. She said that the waiting frightened her more than the wind. She said she believed that their father was dead.

Jon was quiet. A siren sounded. The lights flashed across the dark sky and then disappeared.



THE ROOM WAS FULL OF LIGHT. FROM THE WINDOW THEY COULD see the port and the fishing boats and the oil tankers, and at night, when it was clear and calm, the lights of the squid boats far out at sea were like bright stars. In the afternoon, as the sun descended and the air cooled, they left their room and climbed the stairs to the hotel rooftop, where Jon lay on the hammock and read while Ada looked out over the city. There were the broad streets and the cement electrical poles and the palms and far off to the south the tennis courts, where a group of schoolboys in their white shirts and blue shorts played soccer, the bright smack of the ball carrying up to the roof.

The night before, she had dreamed of her father. A clear, pitch-perfect dream in which her father had been smiling from a distance and waving at her to come. “Come,” he had cried out, and Ada had toddled forward and fallen on her face. She woke from the dream and heard the fan spinning slowly above her bed, and beyond, through the window, there was a flash of lightning and then thunder. She called out to Jon, said his name several times, but he slept on. She got up and went to the bathroom, and when she came back she stood by the window and watched the night. The neon sign of the hotel sent a glow back onto her face; blue and white and then blue again. She opened the window halfway and leaned out and saw two men walking arm in arm on the street below. They were singing and then talking and then singing again. The men had seemed harmless and the singing was especially musical.

Now, watching the soccer players, Ada turned to Jon and told him about the dream. “I tried to wake you. I hate dreaming about him. Either he disappears or he turns away or I end up cutting off my arms to try to get his attention.”

Jon closed his book. He looked at Ada, and then after a long while he said, “I’m glad that I don’t dream about him. The lieutenant yesterday, Mr. Dat, said that he couldn’t be sure but he thought that we wouldn’t find him. I didn’t really understand everything he said. He was using this garbled combination of French and Vietnamese and English and he kept saying
va, va
oui, oui,
and at one point I went
and he smiled and said, ‘You speak our language.’ He has beautiful hands. His wrists are thin and the nail on his little finger is long. He said Dad’s dead.” Jon paused and laid the book on the table. “I asked him if he had ever met our father, or seen him around town when he lived here during that month. He looked at me and then he said, ‘Not yet.’ It was the oddest thing. I wasn’t sure if it was a language problem or if he was playing a game. What does that mean? Not yet.”

Ada leaned forward and stubbed her cigarette on the cement floor. She said, “You didn’t hit on him. I hope you didn’t do that.”

Jon raised an eyebrow. “Did you hear what I said?”

“I heard. He has to make a living and we’re not paying him anything and if we did he’d throw clues our way. That’s what he was doing, giving you some hope so that you would offer him some financial reward.” She waved her hand up at the sky. There was a hazy whitish ring around the sun. “The thing is, Jon, you have to be careful here. How do you know that your proclivities will be tolerated?” She closed her eyes sleepily and then opened them and smiled as if pleased by her question.

He rose and stood over her. He whispered in her ear, “I don’t. And I am being careful. Very.”

She loved his smell, the smooth skin of his face after he had shaved. “This trip has become a joke,” she said. “For three weeks now we’ve searched uselessly, and here we are, back at this hotel with nothing except what we came with; a tattered photograph of him and our bags and the clothes we wear. We’re running out of money.”

Jon was dismissive. “Del will put more into the account. She said it wasn’t a problem. She just has to ask Tomas.”

Ada said, “Haven’t you noticed how utterly privileged and fat we are?”

“We?” Jon said. “Fat?”

“I mean the tourists, like us. Those big groups that climb off the buses by the Empire Hotel and then stand around and sweat and wave brochures in front of their faces and call out for each other and then drink iced tea in the air-conditioned café.”

Jon smiled. “Don’t worry, Ada,” he said. “You’re not like everyone else.”

She ignored him and said that she was going over to My Khe. She was hot, and tired of walking around town. There was nothing more to be done. She wanted to swim and asked if he would come with her.

He said that he didn’t like swimming there. The undertow scared him.

Ada went into the bathroom and changed into her bathing suit. She put on shorts and a long-sleeved top and leather sandals; carried a bag with a book and bottled water and an apple, under her arm a small mat. She wore a straw hat with a wide brim. She studied herself in the mirror and experienced a moment of hope.

ON THE FERRY THAT TOOK HER TO MY KHE, A BOY SAT DOWN beside her and asked her name. Before she could answer he said that his name was Yen and he was fourteen, maybe, and where did she come from? His hands were dirty, as if he had been repairing something, a bicycle or an engine, and when he saw her studying his hands he put them under his bare thighs and said that he was a mechanic for the ferryman, but only when it was necessary. And today it was necessary. He grinned and shrugged. He said that he had plans to be a lawyer, not a mechanic, though he did know how to fix many kinds of engines. Diesel, two stroke, fuel injected, combustion. He lifted one hand and raised his fingers as he rolled out the list, then put his hand back under his leg. He said that his father was the man who ran the ferry.

BOOK: The Time in Between
9.02Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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