Flowers of the Dinh Ba Forest
Robert David Clark
In this novel of war, love, camaraderie, and betrayal Vietnam veteran Clark centers his plot around a search for a rare orchid in the height of the Vietnam War.
As novelist and veteran Tim O’Brien has pointed out, the telling element in any true war story is that it doesn’t make sense. Clark’s characters—both Vietnamese and American, both men and women—are painfully aware that nothing seems to make sense in the war, that one might as well trek off in search of a deep jungle orchid. It’s this very non-sensicality that forges them—foe and friend—into an insane respect, an insane hatred for one another. And it’s the search for this rare orchid that gives them the willed deception of meaning, much as if Soren Kierkegaard had leaped from late nineteenth century Sweden into twentieth century Vietnam. And the search also gives Clark’s novel a gripping plot and range of characters—without any leap of faith, though with very much satisfaction.
ISBN, trade paper: 9781931982306, $14.95 Sale $7.50
ISBN, library edition:9781931982290, $25.00 Sale $12.50
Robert David Clark was born and raised in a small town in central Iowa. In 1968 he was drafted into the Army and served a tour in Vietnam as an infantryman. In 1971 he enrolled at Minnesota State University, Mankato. While attending MSU he won the school's Robert C. Wright writing scholarship, and an Associated Writing Programs award for fiction. He has been published in Indiana Review, Highground Magazine, and Minnesota River review. Flowers Of The Dinh Ba Forest is his first published novel. He lives in Mankato, Minnesota with his two daughters.
Excerpt From the Book:
At first light, outside the village of Xon Dao, Sau Ban waited alone on a paddy dike, wishing for rain. He liked the cool, slick feel of rain on his skin. Its smell in the first hours of morning always reminded him of home. When he was young, Sau Ban would watch rain flatten the dust in the city’s streets. He liked how the water gathered to form brown rivers beside the curbs. He’d build boats out of tamarind leaves and drop them in the rushing water, watching until they were out of sight, imagining the places they went, the sights he might see if he were small enough to ride along. The French had been in Hue when he was young, the French and their love of parades. It seemed they never grew tired of marching through the old imperial city.
Overhead, the gray sky was still. The rice fields played out in mis-matched shapes of emerald green, the treelines surrounding them were locked in shadow. Dew-laden rice plants held the morning light in a blanket of silver. Off to the west a bank of charcoal-colored clouds rose steadily upward from the horizon. Rain. Not yet, but in a while.
A few days ago the sky had opened up and emptied itself for hours on the village. The morning had been perfect.
A young soldier had stumbled into Sau Ban’s camp. He wore a uniform of the Army of the Republic of Vietnam. Sau Ban knew he was a deserter, and to his way of thinking this made the ARVN the lowest form of life imaginable. Sau Ban could not tolerate cowardice or dereliction of duty from a soldier. It was a matter of honor, and Sau Ban believed himself an honorable man.