Format: Trade Paperback, 288 pages
Publisher: Emblem Editions
ISBN: 978-0-7710-1139-9 (0-7710-1139-3)
Pub Date: May 30, 2006
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In search of love, absolution, or forgiveness, Charles Boatman leaves the Fraser Valley of British Columbia and returns mysteriously to Vietnam, the country where he fought twenty-nine years earlier as a young, reluctant soldier. But his new encounters seem irreconcilable with his memories.
When he disappears, his daughter Ada, and her brother, Jon, travel to Vietnam, to the streets of Danang and beyond, to search for him. Their quest takes them into the heart of a country that is at once incomprehensible, impassive, and beautiful. Chasing her father’s shadow for weeks, following slim leads, Ada feels increasingly hopeless. Yet while Jon slips into the urban nightlife to avoid what he most fears, Ada finds herself growing closer to her missing father — and strong enough to forgive him and bear the heartbreaking truth of his long-kept secret.
Bergen’s marvellously drawn characters include Lieutenant Dat, the police officer who tries to seduce Ada by withholding information; the boy Yen, an orphan, who follows Ada and claims to be her guide; Jack Gouds, an American expatriate and self-styled missionary; his strong-willed and unhappy wife, Elaine, whose desperate encounters with Charles in the days before his disappearance will always haunt her; and Hoang Vu, the artist and philosopher who will teach Ada about the complexity of love and betrayal. We also come to learn about the reclusive author Dang Tho, whose famous wartime novel pulls at Charles in ways he can’t explain.
Moving between father and daughter, the present and the past, The Time in Between is a luminous, unforgettable novel about one family, two cultures, and a profound emotional journey in search of elusive answers.
WINNER 2005 - Scotiabank Giller Prize
NOMINEE 2006 - Canadian Booksellers Association Libris Award - Fiction Book of the Year
NOMINEE 2006 - IMPAC Dublin Literary Award
How I Came to Write The Time In Between
Every novel has a history and in the case of The Time in Between there is an eight year span. In 1996, I went to Vietnam with my family. Just before leaving, I came across a novel called The Sorrow of War, a heartbreaking depiction of the Vietnam War through the eyes of a North Vietnamese soldier. Upon arriving in Hanoi and then Danang, I naively thought it might be interesting to learn more about this author, Bao Ninh, and perhaps even to meet him. For several weeks my family and I moved about, looking for a house in Quang Ngai and then finally settling in Danang, where we stayed for six months. During our time in Danang, I continued to ask about this author and I came across people who had studied creative writing with him, others who had met him, and some who were keenly interested in trying to help me find him. I never did meet Bao Ninh, but my quest led me into the heart of a country that was both generous and unknowable.
Having taught Vietnamese refugees in Thailand, I was curious about the people, and I was aware of many past depictions of the country, but I had never thought to set a novel in that place. But, five years later an image came to me. A man, an American soldier who has returned to Vietnam years after the war, is paddling a basketboat out to sea. Then, a second image arrived, and it was of that same man’s daughter standing in a hotel room and looking out the window at the ocean.
And that is how the novel begins.
I don’t see The Time in Between as a war novel. Though the story comes out of a particular war and Charles Boatman’s experience in that war, I was interested in Charles as an older man: his plight, his lostness, and his relationship to his children. I wanted to investigate how families work, how secrets are kept, and how the father who sits across from his daughter, Ada Boatman, is a different man than the one she thinks she knows. On another level, I was curious about our assumptions, about how we try to apprehend a foreign place, and then fail. As my characters came to me, I had the sense that they were alone, that they were missing something in some way; that Charles was missing his wholeness and that Ada, try as she might, would not be able to find the father she thought she knew. That said, I was also aware of chance; that Charles has the opportunity to find love, and that Ada has been given some sort of gift through Vu, the man who is her lover.
Chance, of course, is also a part of writing novels. The images that first came to me, of Charles and Ada Boatman, were not forced or willed. They appeared. The characters, whom I credit with leading me into the story itself, became a part of my imagination and inhabited my world. I hope readers will find in them people they too recognize and come to care about.
—David Bergen, Winnipeg, July 2005
“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.”
“A beautifully composed, unflinching and harrowing story. Perhaps the best fiction yet to confront and comprehend the legacy of Vietnam.”
-Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
“[Bergen] preserves the exquisiteness of the Vietnamese culture, lending a unique beauty to the story. Highly recommended.”
“Bergen’s best writing evokes the absence of what has been lost and, even more terribly, what is not there to be found.”
-Globe and Mail
“With his thoughtful dialogue, Bergen makes the characters’ heartache seep off the page.”
“David Bergen is a master of taut, spare prose that’s both erotic and hypnotic. Set mostly in modern-day Viet Nam, 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, Charles Boatman, and his daughter who seeks to solve the mystery of his disappearance.”
–Miriam Toews, author of A Complicated Kindness
“David Bergen’s The Time In-Between is about how children inherit their parents’ ghosts and 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
“The Time In-Between is 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
“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, The Miracle Life of Edgar Mint
“Intelligent, humane, deep in its sympathetic understanding, David Bergen’s novel explores the haunted life of the Boatman family in the late 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, The Fearless Man: a Novel of Vietnam
From the Hardcover edition.
David Bergen is the author of four highly acclaimed novels: A Year of Lesser, a New York Times Notable Book and winner of the McNally Robinson Book of the Year Award; See the Child; The Case of Lena S., winner of the Carol Shields Winnipeg Book Award, and a finalist for the Governor General’s Award for Fiction, the McNally Robinson Book of the Year Award, and the Margaret Laurence Award for Fiction; and, most recently, The Time in Between, winner of the Scotiabank Giller Prize. He is also the author of a collection of short fiction, Sitting Opposite My Brother, which was a finalist for the Manitoba Book of the Year Award.
David Bergen lives in Winnipeg.
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