The picture on the cover of this book is iconic. I was in high school when that picture came out on the covers of many popular magazines. It stimulated a great deal of conversation and debate. It put teeth on protest that was popular in that time period. I’m pretty certain more than a few tears were shed on behalf of these children in the picture. The horrors of war became only too real. And of course, we talked about it in school. We talked about Napalm, chemical warfare, and the realities of how people treat people in times of war. It was the era of civil unrest. Civil liberties were the most common topic of conversation. And who knows how much conversation that picture stimulated, how much heartache over conflicts was shared and finally understood by such a graphic reminder. I know it had an impact on my sensibilities. When I again saw this picture on the cover of Kim Phuc’s book, I felt it in my heart. I knew that picture.
Another book was written about the girl in the picture. It was mostly about the Vietnam civil war. While the author did a remarkable job explaining the situation behind the picture, she missed the personal story, which has finally come out in Kim Phuc’s new release, “Fire Road.” This book is about Kim’s personal journey, not just how she came to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, getting hit by a Napalm bomb (lain down by her own countrymen in anticipation of invading armies), of her recovery from burns over most of her body. Recovery was almost non-existent. Her journey is still ongoing in that respect, and she currently lives in pain with a few moments of respite from time to time. It is additionally about her spiritual journey. It seems as if her entire life was spent seeking peace of some sort. Peace from torment and pain; peace inside her soul from the anger of unfair circumstances, peace from disappointment in her doctors and parents and siblings and political leaders, just to name a few people in her life who failed her in her expectations.
This was a difficult book for me to read. It began with an 8-year-old-girl living a happy typical life among her family members. It didn’t stay peaceful and idyllic for long. She described the horrors of being burned alive. She was rejected for treatment and placed in a morgue and left to die. That was where her parents found her in their desperate search for her. Treatment was a long painful experience. She received third and fourth degree burns all over her body. Sometimes the treatments were as painful as the burns. When she was finally allowed to go home, her town of Trang Bang was decimated and the home only a skeleton of its old self.
Kim’s growing up years was filled with disturbing changes as the country grew as a communist nation. She managed to get through her teen years much as anyone else who is a teen but with the intense desires of a person who needed more assurances of love and acceptance because of her burns and scars. Pain constantly plagued her and she was convinced no one would ever want to marry her because of the disfigurement. But that wasn’t the worst of her situation. The government discovered her. She became a propaganda tool. They interviewed her constantly, changed her story so that she was declared disfigured by Americans who bombed her country. They pulled her out of classes continually to make appearances she could not refuse. And when she began college, she could not finish because of her many absenses. To make a long story shorter, she finally ended up in Cuba to attend college. From there she managed to defect to Canada in a set of fantastic circumstances. And it was in Canada when the best part of her story continued. She finally found the peace she was so long in searching for.
The entire story is intriguing. I could barely put the book down in my desire to find out what happened next. Kim’s story is compelling, and finally complete. I feel as if we have come full circle with events that began in the early ’70’s and finally concluded to a satisfactory degree in the present. But more important than her early disastrous circumstances is the message she has felt called to continue. How do you forgive such horrendous events? How do you forgive those responsible for such horrors? How do you forgive those who took advantage of her? How do you find peace that transcends everything? That’s why Kim wrote this book. She wanted to tell the world how she finally found peace in the Prince of Peace, Jesus Christ.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a review copy of this book from Tyndale Publishing on behalf of the author. I was not required to write a review, positive or otherwise. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”