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What Really Happened to Steve Nathan


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An enthralling story of love, loss, and the revelation of long-held family secrets that will linger long after you've turned the final page.

Lindsey thought she knew who her father was. But when she finds a photo of her mother with a man she doesn't recognize, dated nine months before her birth, she realizes that the man who raised her wasn't her father after all. She wonders what kept the man in the photo from coming back to her mother, and she sets off to find out more about him. She learns that his name was Steve Nathan, and he was an American operative in the Vietnam War. Missing, presumed dead.

Nate has grown up knowing who his father was - Steve Nathan, an American who died in the war. While his childhood in California with his mother Mai wasn't always easy, he knows it's better than what he could have had in Mai's home country of Vietnam as a "half-breed", of mixed race. He and Mai have a successful restaurant business, and he goes back to Vietnam to meet his family there and pursue possible business connections. He also knows there's more to his father's story than Mai has shared with him, and hopes to have a chance to learn what she's not saying.

Nate and Lindsey meet up by chance in Vietnam, and when Nate mentions his father's name, Lindsey realizes he is her half-brother. Nate invites Lindsey to his family's celebration of Tet, a Vietnamese holiday, and they decide it's time that family secrets come to light.

I will not tell you all of the plot. Mary Marchese tells this story, and she does it admirably. What I will tell you is that this story is the kind that will linger long after the last page. The descriptions of Vietnam, the country and the culture, are both engaging and enlightening, especially to a reader like me, who isn't very familiar with the country. After reading this book, I think I might like to go visit there. Lindsey and Nate were easy to envision in my mind's eye as I read, and while Lindsey is an adult for the entirety, it was delightful to see Nate grow up over the course of the book. The story's focus is primarily on the mystery of Steve Nathan, but there's also some suspense and a little romance.

While I was a bit put off at first by the use of present tense for Lindsey and past tense for Nate, I soon realized that this made it easier for me to follow whose narrative I was reading. It certainly didn't distract from the pleasure of the story. And the ending. Oh, wow. I didn't expect the ending, and it was very well done. I liked the way Ms. Marchese brought the story of Steve Nathan full circle. When I'd read the last word, I just looked at the page for a moment or two, because I was unable to walk away from it. Truly, this is a gem that ranks among my favorite books this year.

I'd recommend this book for anyone who likes a well-told story about love, loss, and family secrets.

Reviewed by

I'm Lisa. Mom of boys, baker of treats, and reader of all the books. I prefer cozy mysteries, fantasy, and suspense, but I'll read anything that grabs my attention. I thrive on coffee and dark chocolate, and I need about 12 more hours in any given day.


About the author

I have a degree in English Literature and have been a feature writer for a newspaper, a technical writer at IBM, and editor of a community newsletter. I grew up in Vietnam before the war and recently returned for a two-week tour during Tet. Home is now Kingston, NH. view profile

Published on January 18, 2018

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70000 words

Worked with a Reedsy professional 🏆

Genre: Historical Mysteries

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