I really enjoyed Ruth Starke’s new YA novel, Noodle Pie. I admit, the title sucked me in at once with the whole visual it created, but the storytelling and the father/son relationship with the Vietnam background was just absorbing.
I was a teen during the Vietnam War, and I saw the stark images of what was going on over there at the time every night on the television news. The images of the last helicopter taking off from Saigon were incredible, one of those that will live on in memory forever.
Starke’s audience are going to lack the historical depth that I have while reading this book, but she builds in such an interesting family that younger readers without knowledge of the war are going to be drawn in by the emotional drama between those people.
Andy grew up in Australia and doesn’t really have a clue about his father’s birth country. He’d heard dozens of times about the nightmare boat ride that brought his father out of that country, so the story has lost some of its punch. However, his father starts acting weird while on the trip over to Vietnam. Dressed in new clothes, wearing a fancy gold watch and diamond ring that they could never afford, his dad starts acting like he’s wealthy. Andy knows they’re not.
I loved the mystery of Andy’s dad, and what was really at the root of the change. The reader doesn’t find out what’s going on until the end of the book, and by then the story is really ready to be told most effectively.
Starke also seems to know her way around the Vietnamese streets. The life there, quick and vibrant and sometimes desperate, springs to life off the pages. I’ve got images in my head of the scooters and cyclos that won’t leave me for a long time. And the whole cooking on the ground in front of an open-air restaurant just blows me away.