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Pushing Water

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It is 1939, Sarah, living and working in Vietnam, finds her life turned upside down when she discovers a murdered co-worker.
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Author: Margaret Mendel
Description

VIETNAM, 1939. Sarah, an expat, working as an Archivist for the French Colonial Government in Hanoi, is devastated when she finds a Vietnamese co-worker murdered.

Determined to find the killer, Sarah suspects she knows what prompted the murder when she discovers a secret document in a packet of poetry the co-worker had borrowed from the archives.

The papers include a secret colonial communication outlining a direct order that will bring about devastating hardship for the Vietnamese people.

Sarah’s life is further complicated by the arrival of an old friend, Julia, who brings with her remembrances of a past Sarah would rather forget. Then Albee, Sarah’s part time lover comes on the scene. He claims to be an archaeologist working on a dig in China, though Sarah suspects he is a fulltime communist revolutionary.

Sarah attempts to deal with her problematic personal life, wishing for her solitude to return, when a friend is arrested and executed for revolutionary activities. Heartsick, Sarah decides to return back to the States. Though there is one more hurtle to overcome. The world is in a chaotic mess and within one devastating day nothing will ever be the same again.

Title Pushing Water
Author Margaret Mendel
Genre Historical Fiction
Release January 17, 2017
Designer Charlotte Volnek
Length 323 Pages
ISBN 978-1-77127-882-9
Price $5.99
Tags Historical fiction, Women’s fiction, Vietnam, 1938, 1942, French Colony Territory, Rebels, Archivist, murder, Japanese Military, WWII,

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Excerpt

“Oh Lord, it’s going to be even hotter today than yesterday,” Julia said.

Standing in the doorway, Julia looked more rested this morning than she had when we met up at the airstrip yesterday. There were still dark rings and puffiness around her eyes. It was hard to say how this old friend normally looked. We had exchanged letters occasionally though we hadn’t seen each other in over five years. Then out of the blue, a cable came in the mail saying she’d be arriving for a short stay in Hanoi.

Her visit could not have been more poorly timed.

I lived in a small house on the outskirts of a large market district. The street outside my walled-in garden vibrated with activity from before sunup until dusk. The two silk merchants across the way, one with a distinctive screeching voice, constantly competed with each other, vying for the attention of the silkworm farmers carrying fresh loads of raw spun silk thread to the market. Potters and basket weavers balanced mountain-sized bundles of goods on their backs or carried merchandise dangling from shoulder poles, weighting as much as a mother-in-law. They shouted the names of their villages to let buyers know that they had brought a special product into Hanoi.

Julia and I sat in my garden drinking coffee, listening to this activity as if today was like any other day. But it wasn’t like any other day. This morning Julia would accompany me when I paid a condolence call to a murdered coworker’s family.

Two days ago, I discovered the body of Thien Nguyen, a Vietnamese translator who worked with me at the Archives. He was a lovely person and valued colleague. I’d miss him terribly.

Yesterday after picking up Julia at the airstrip, instead of heading straight back to my place we stopped for drinks at a bar where I hung out from time to time. Between swallows of wine, I made feeble attempts to explain what had happened. Telling the full story was unnerving and painful. My mind stumbled over the unreal situation. The right words would not come. How could something that horrible be explained? So, most of the afternoon was spent with my nose buried in a glass of rice wine, while I listened half heartedly to Julia’s stories about her adventures as a correspondent in the Civil War in Spain.

Since finding Thien Nguyen’s body, my attention flicked in and out. Most of what Julia said didn’t register. The image of this young, dead co-worker lying prostrate between two rows of bookshelves, a garrote twisted tightly around his neck, felt imprinted on my brain. The memory of this scene could have just as well been branded on my retinas because it is quite likely that it would be with me forever.

Waking up this morning was a horror. My heart ached thinking about paying the dead translator’s family a condolence call. But what troubled me most about this day was seeing Thi My, his fiancé. I’d promised to walk with her to pay the family a condolence visit.

Julia took a sip of coffee. “What do you wear to one of these things?”

Clothing was the least of my concerns. “Wear whatever you want.” I stood up. “Time to get ready. Thi My will be here soon.”

Leaving the coolness of the garden and walking into the house was like walking into a furnace. I had to agree with Julia; maybe today was hotter than yesterday. Stepping into my bedroom, it didn’t matter what I took from the closet. Dressing this morning was a mindless act of necessity.

When I came out to the front of the house, Julia was sitting on the daybed fiddling with her shoelaces. Now dressed in a white linen pantsuit, a beat-up looking camera hanging from her neck, Julia look more like her old self, the reporter I knew back in St. Louis, Missouri.

We went out into the garden. Neither of us said a word. Thi My was expected to arrive any minute now.

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