The Return to Nam series has been one of the best series I’ve read. I couldn’t believe it when I looked it up that it had been 4 years since I read The Nam Legacy, I can still feel the impact of that first novel, still, remember the characters who became so real to me I felt like I actually knew them. I can still remember how realistic the scenes in Vietnam were, the trials Jack & Terry and their mates went through to fight for a cause they didn’t really understand.
And now 4 years later we get Jackie’s story, Jack’s daughter from his time in Vietnam, and the final book in this highly recommended series, a fitting and emotional end to all that has come to pass.
Carole Brungar has managed to do it again, to create another highly emotional journey that takes Jackie (and us the reader) on a journey of self-discovery as she fulfils a promise to Terry (one of my favourite characters from this series), the only father she’s ever known. Set nearly 33 years after she was rescued from a Vietnamese orphanage and taken to New Zealand, Jackie reluctantly makes plans to return to Vietnam for the first time and to try to track down the family and the history that she left behind.
Jackie’s relationship with her adoptive father Terry and her stepmother Frankie, whose love story we got to experience in The Nam Shadow was so wonderfully powerful, the love between them was so strong. Jackie was so lucky to have had Terry in her life, and she knew how lucky she was both to have had him as her father and to have been rescued from what her life could have been as an orphan during wartime, and Terry felt the same, their father/daughter relationship was something to be jealous of, from the moment of her rescue, both of their lives were changed for the better.
Jackie was a highly-strung, but very likeable character, her past trauma has formed who she has become and she holds herself to high expectations and doesn’t really do social engagements or relationships. When she bumps into Jeff, an old friend from her student days, things Jackie thought she was happy with in her life are about to be questioned. I loved Jeff, oh to meet a guy who feels about me the way Jeff feels about Jackie (swoon). They are both married to their jobs, but I held out hope throughout that they would work things out, especially knowing how long Jeff had been in love with Jackie.
Jackie’s return to Vietnam was extremely hard for her, she was lucky she had Frankie to go with her and support her through her journey. I enjoyed rediscovering the places I first experienced with Frankie in The Nam Shadow when she was a war photographer, it was a little like I was taking a walk down memory lane with her as she showed Jackie the places that meant something to her and Terry and remembered the people and experiences she’d lived through. Jackie was averse to meeting her mother’s relatives, finding out she had half-sisters and aunts and cousins didn’t mean anything to her when she set out on her journey. It’s amazing what actually meeting people and discovering another culture can do to change our entire perspective on our life, as Jackie discovers on her journey.
Jackie’s trip to Vietnam heralds many changes and she makes some major decisions that will affect both her future and her future with Jeff. For someone who assesses every tiny thing in her life before she makes a decision, meeting up with Jeff again and returning to Vietnam, changes Jackie in big ways.
This was a wonderful ending to this series, I wish it could keep going, I have loved the way Carole Brungar has managed to weave the many characters from the different novels so as they are so intertwined and turn up unexpectedly in each book. I highly recommend this novel and the preceding novels in this series and though you can read it as a standalone, you will get the full feeling for this series if you read it from the beginning.
Oh, and you will need tissues just like you will in each novel.
Read my thoughts on the other books in the series