Fiction. Three women, three countries, three stories—a Thai prisoner, a Cambodian entrepreneur and a Laotian Hmong refugee's destinies are threaded together by the tears leftover from the Vietnam War. BEAUTY BENEATH THE BANYAN introduces readers to the secret war waged in Laos and its devastating aftermath. It provides a rare literary space in which the reader will also encounter the atrocities of Pol Pot's Cambodia and the effects of these wars, as well as the Vietnam war on Thailand, where many displaced people from Laos and Cambodia sought refuge, and where American soldiers sought refuge of another kind, leading to the development of Thailand's industry of sexual tourism.
The Buddhist concept of reincarnation is used to unite six main characters, three of whom are dead. The dead consist of a Cambodian monk, an American soldier who fought in Vietnam and died in Thailand and an American pilot who flew bombing missions in Laos and died there. These three become dead companions who are watching over three women who are still living: a Laotian grandmother, a Cambodian woman who wants desperately to have a child and a Thai woman who murders her husband and goes to prison.
The novel presents a timely look at our current global landscape, i.e., war and the effects of war on countries like Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya to name a few, as well as the repetitive destructive foreign policy decisions that are still being made with repercussions of war and the lasting imprint this devastation leaves generations later.