In the final days of a falling Saigon, The Lotus Eaters unfolds the story of three photographers brought together under the impossible umbrella of war: Helen Adams, a once-naïve ingénue whose ambition conflicts with her desire over the course of the fighting; Linh, the Vietnamese man who loves her, but is torn between conflicting loyalties to his homeland and his heart; and Sam Darrow, a man addicted to the narcotic of violence, to his intoxicating affair with Helen and to the ever-increasing danger of his job. All three become transformed by the conflict they have risked everything to record.
In this much-heralded debut, Tatjana Soli creates a searing portrait of three souls trapped by their impossible passions, contrasting the wrenching horror of combat and the treachery of obsession with the redemptive power of love.
"Splendid ... Soli portrays these love stories so thoughtfully, and with such care, that they take precedence over the fireworks of battle. In this novel, love eclipses war, at least momentarily . . . Helen's restlessness and grappling, her realization that 'a woman sees war differently,' provide a new and fascinating perspective on Vietnam. Vivid battle scenes, sensual romantic entanglements, and elegant writing add to the pleasures of The Lotus Eaters." —Danielle Trussoni, The New York Times Book Review
"[A] haunting debut novel. . . quietly mesmerizing . . . if it sounds as if a love story is the central element in The Lotus Eaters (which takes its title from those characters in The Odyssey who succumb he allure of honeyed fruit), Ms. Soli's book is sturdier than that. Its object lessons in how Helen learns to refine her -wartime photography are succinct and powerful. By exposing its readers to the violence of war only gradually and sparingly, the novel becomes all the more effective." —Janet Maslin, The New York Times
“Devastatingly awesome . . . It's one of those books that I didn't want to put down—I resented everything else that I needed to do in my life, because I didn't want to stop reading it.”—Nancy Pearl, NPR
“35 years after the fall of Saigon, Soli’s entrancing debut brings you close enough to feel a part of it."—People
"A haunting world of war, betrayal, courage, obsession, and love."—Tim O’Brien, author of The Things They Carried
"You must read The Lotus Eaters, Tatjana Soli’s beautiful and harrowing new novel. Its characters are unforgettable.”—Richard Russo, author of That Old Cape Magic
"The very steam from Vietnam's jungles seems to rise from the pages of Tatjana Soli's tremendously evocative debut . . . A beautiful book."—Janice Y. K. Lee, author of The Piano Teacher
Tatjana Soli's short stories have been widely published, nominated for the Pushcart Prize, and twice cited in the 100 Distinguished Stories in Best American Short Stories. The Lotus Eaters, her debut novel, was a New York Times bestseller and Editors Choice and a finalist for the L.A. Times Book Award. Born in Salzburg, Austria, Soli attended Stanford University and the Warren Wilson M.F.A. program. She lives in Orange County, California.
April 28, 1975
The city teetered in a dream state. Helen walked down the deserted street. The quiet was eerie. Time running out. A long-handled barber's razor, cradled in the nest of its strop, lay on the ground, the blade's metal grabbing the sun. Unable to resist, she leaned down to pick it up, afraid someone would split his foot open running across it.