Journey Home

By Kirkus Reviews

This enormously touching book from McKay (Caravan, 1995) tells the story of Mai and her mother’s journey to Vietnam in search of the mother’s birth family. Mai narrates as her mother, left at an orphanage in Saigon when she was a baby, searches the records and attempts to find a clue to her family—a thread she can follow to her source. Their search pivots on the design of a kite, similar to one that was Mai’s mother’s only possession when she came to the US. As their journey continues, Mai finds herself busy with issues of identity and belonging: Her father deserted the family when she was a baby; her mother seems serene about her search; Mai notices she looks more like the people in this new country than she looks like those back home. Adding to the poignancy of the story is the immediacy of its context, its near history, and its palpable expression of the madness and carnage of war. The Lees’ soft artwork is especially expressive in the depiction of faces; in the scene in which Mai’s mother meets an old friend of her father’s, who bestows upon her her real name and explains the circumstances under which she was left as the orphanage, there won’t be a dry eye among readers and listeners.