Laura Manivong

Book Review: Escaping the Tiger

Escaping the TigerEscaping the Tiger is the story of Vonlai Sirivong, his sister, mother and father and is based on the first hand experience of the author’s husband.

Twelve-year-old Vonlai wakes one night when his father shakes him and says, “We’re crossing tonight.” Vonlai and his family paddle, then swim for safety across the Mekong river from communist Laos into Thailand. As Laotians say, “Escaping the tiger to face the crocodile.” The refugee situation in Thailand leaves Vonlai and his family in fear for his sister’s safety from the camp guards and in constant hunger for both food and a home.

There were so many gorgeous, touching moments in this book, it’s not fair to share just one. However, I hate spoilers, so I picked the following passage. It was the first, but not the last time I cried. Early on, we learn of Vonlai’s dream to become an architect like his father was before the war. His father’s book of western architecture was a prized possession until the communists learned of it through Vonlai’s indiscretion and they burned the book:

“From then on, his father stopped telling stories about America, but Vonlai repeated the old ones to himself and drew the pictures in his mind so he wouldn’t forget. And Vonlai did dream, while vowing never to betray Pah’s trust again. He dreamed of one day seeing those architectural marvels with his own eyes. Building a life for himself as strong as skyscrapers, double-decker bridges, underground trains, and soaring highways that looped up and around one another like ribbon on a gift.”

Those desires and dreams are difficult to hold onto when a month in the camp turns into a year, then four years. Vonlai makes friends with Colonel, a kind old man with hideous war wounds earned from the Pathet Lao communist guards in Laos. Colonel teaches Vonlai how to survive hell and still cling to his dreams. Their interaction remains true throughout the book and moved me to tears. Have I mentioned how much I love books that elicit strong emotional responses?

“Escaping the Tiger” is among the most uplifting pieces of literature I’ve been privileged to read and I want to thank the author and her husband for sharing the tale.

Launch of Escaping the Tiger


“Escaping the Tiger” packed Reading Reptile Bookstore with 250+ for the book’s launch party Saturday night! Partiers showed up for a signed copy of the book including yours truly. The cookies, fudge, and Laotian food was an attractive bonus, but they didn’t last. I guarantee this book will stick with you.

I read the first six chapters Saturday night and if I hadn’t had to be alert Sunday, I would have continued reading until I was done. It’s that good.

I’ll be back in a day or three with a finished review and then an author interview!

More Exciting News!


My friend, Laura Manivong, has her first book coming out in March. “Escaping The Tiger” is a fictionalized account of her husband’s escape from communist Laos in 1992. I can’t wait for the book’s release as I’ve only seen one chapter (which enthralled me). Check out the Kansas City Star’s interview of Laura and her husband, Troy, or you can return here in a few weeks for my own interview with Laura.

Correction: This is her first novel. 🙂

Reviews for a friend

Check these out and yeah for Laura Manivong!

Children’s author Uma Krishnaswami wrote a nice length write up on “Escaping the Tiger,” by Laura Manivong. It is due out in 2010. Here’s the link: http://bit.ly/9Irpd. And also:
The Newbury Award winning author of “A Single Shard,” Linda Sue Park also weighed in on “Tiger.” http://lsparkreader.livejournal.com/61626.html.