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.
From the Hardcover edition.
The typhoon arrived that night. Ada woke to the sound of rain driving against the windows. Above them, on the rooftop, chairs fell and banged against the washstand. The corrugated tin on the stairwell roof worked loose and flapped for an hour before it broke free and fell like a whirling blade down onto the street. Ada was standing at the window watching the palm trees bend in the wind and she saw the tin roofing fly by and land on the tennis courts in the distance. The power went out and then flickered on and finally cut out completely. Ada woke Jon, her brother, who had returned while she was sleeping, and she held his hand and said, “I’m frightened.”
He sat up and said, “It’s a small storm. Don’t worry.”
She could smell sex on him; sometimes the smell was musty and bleachy but tonight it was sweat and the slightest hint of old saliva. That smell. She stood and walked across the room. “The boats are coming in,” she said. “They know something we don’t. I’ve counted thirty already.”
The wind pulled at the hotel sign and threw it onto the street below.
“Get away from the window,” Jon said. “The glass could fall in.”
She sat at the edge of his bed and he held her hand and they listened. The wind arrived from out of the sky and from across the ocean and it seemed that it would never end, until it slid away, a deceptive and distant howl, and then returned just as quickly, banging against the trees and buildings, and everything loose was pulled into the maelstrom. She wanted it to stop. She began to shiver and even though Jon was beside her she felt very much alone.
“Look at us. We’re so stupid,” she said.
“Here,” Jon said, and he made her lie down and he covered her. He held his hands over her ears and put his thumbs against her eyes until the hollow core of the typhoon descended. And with that awful stillness came the everyday sounds: the clock on the bureau; something, perhaps a rat, moving about on the rooftop; the dry cough of the old man below them; the song of a woman calling again and again.
“It’s gone,” Ada said.
Jon said it would return. She said that the waiting frightened her more than the wind. She said she believed that their father was dead.
Jon was quiet. A siren sounded. The lights flashed across the dark sky and then disappeared.From the Hardcover edition.
Excerpted from The Time In Between by David Bergen. Copyright © 2005 by David Bergen. Excerpted by permission of Random House Trade Paperbacks, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
About David Bergen
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.
“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.