In a California courtroom, seventeen-year-old Nou Lee reels with what she is about to do. What she must do to survive. She reflects on the splintered path that led to this moment, beginning twelve years ago in 1978, when her Hmong family escaped from Laos after the Communist takeover. The story follows the Lees from a squalid refugee camp in Thailand to a new life in Minnesota and eventually California. Family members struggle to survive in a strange foreign land, haunted by the scars of war and loss of family. Across the Mekong River paints a vivid picture of the Hmong immigrant experience, exploring family love, sacrifice, and the resiliency of the human spirit to overcome tragic circumstances.
“Ravaged by the Vietnam War, a culturally ingrained family from Laos leaves everything behind to pursue a dangerous journey across the Mekong River leading them from Thailand to the United States in Russell’s novel. As each character’s internal conflicts unfold, his or her unique voice sheds light on the different aspects of Hmong culture. The plots expansiveness is seamless and Russell aptly integrates the culture conflict. The family’s richly drawn tension culminates in a grueling court case that affects all involved. A multifaceted tale of complex characters finding new lives in their new world.” - Kirkus Reviews
“Across the Mekong River is a beautifully complex story of the immigrant experience, one that surprised me with its wonderfully flawed characters and intense emotion…Elaine Russell’s story of a family fleeing the communist government in Laos is one of the best books I’ve read this year.” - Diary of an Eccentric Book Blog