My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Here’s an amazing historical fiction adventure about some of the little known sections of “old” Burma. If you have visited modern Myanmar in the south of the country, don’t expect this to be a joy ride through the places you are familiar with. Our story is set in the north east of the country in 1949-50 when the world was very different from today. WWII historians of Burma will remember that Merrill’s Marauders jungle crashed for months on end to take the Japanese occupied town of Myitkyinia in Northern Burma. Then following the war, Mao Tse-Tung chased many of the Nationalist Chinese army under Chiang Kai-shek, the Kuomintang, into the highlands of Burma. They fled with their weapons, south into the Golden Triangle of Burma ultimately taking over the opium trade. Against this background, our hero, Greenwood, an anthropologist, is pulled into WWII to work as an OSS because he speaks Shan and has lived in the hills as a Shan tribesman in Northern Burma. Following the war, Greenwood returns to America, becoming a Professor of anthropology in university life. Growing jaded with civilization, he decides to revisit his Burmese wife in the up-country village of Pawlu. Of course, in the intervening years, life in Burma has changed. The village has a new religious leader, a green skinned man, formerly a slave in the tin mines. The local wild head-hunting mountain tribes now have more modern weapons and are a threat to the village and to any strangers crossing their territory. The dwindling Kuomintang under a failed general and womanizing Russian are searching for a place to call home. Armed with his favorite weapon, a Thompson machine gun, Greenwood and his guide set off into the unknown to find his wife and daughter and alter forever the fate of the village of Pawlu.