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This compulsively readable, vivid memoir of courage, grief and redemption illuminates the life of Mai, a young girl from Vietnam’s rice fields, who risks everything to escape poverty, abuse and war.

Her battle is not against soldiers but against her neighbors and a thousand years of tradition. Born during Ho Chi Minh’s revolution against the French, she was just a baby when his followers in the village, out of spite, came to her home one night and murdered the men in the family, driving her mother mad with fear and rage.

She was fourteen when her mother forced her to marry, and have a child, with a brutal man who beat and tortured her, finally leaving her for dead beside the road. Recovered, she ran away with her infant son, only to discover there was no place for them. To save her baby’s life, she returned home in disgrace, only to face the Viet Cong. In desperation she escaped again, leaving her child in safety, she thought.

On Saigon’s deadly streets, with no identity papers, she became an outlaw, hiding from her ex-husband, grieving for her lost child. Homeless, penniless and pursued, only her dream of freedom kept her alive. Then one day she would meet a saintly woman, who gave her hope, and an Irish-American naval officer, who gave her love.

Crossing the Bamboo Bridge is a tale of mothers and daughters, and of their children. It is a tale of war, and grief, and a young girl’s dreams. It is a stunning epiphany of hope when there is none, of courage in the face of despair, of love, respect and freedom.



Praise & Reviews

for Crossing the Bamboo Bridge - Memoirs of a Bad Luck Girl

  • A captivating story of a young Vietnamese girl who resisted all odds and realized a true American dream. Movies are made about women like Mai Donohue.
    Chris Morrow, Co-author of NY Times Bestsellers "Do You," "Super Rich," and "Take Back Your Family"
  • Mai Donohue weaves together a wrenching tale of poverty, rebellion, enterprise and unwavering tenacity. Set against the backdrop of a rural hamlet in Central Vietnam and the urban swagger of a wartime, 1960's Saigon, this is an uplifting story of survival and, ultimately, the power of love.
    SanSan Kwan, PhD, Assoc. Prof/UC-Berkeley, and Author of "Kinesthetic City"
  • It's not fashionable to say, but I happen to think there are too many unearned memoirs being churned out these days. Mai Donohue's breathless, riveting journey, from being a child bride in an impoverished Vietnamese village to a middle class mother of six in a wealthy American suburb, is astounding and inspiring, a true tale of survival against incredible odds. Her experiences are searing, but matter-of-factly told and I couldn't stop reading about them. This is a memoir from someone who's earned the right to have one, a hundred times over.
    Lauren Iannotti, Executive Editor, Rachael Ray Every Day
  • Through Mai Donohue's riveting memoir we experience the French and American Vietnam Wars-- the barbarous tactics of the Communists and others, the family divisions, the degrading treatment of women and much more. Forced into a brutal marriage as a young teenager, Mai narrowly escapes to South Vietnam after several failed efforts. Through enormous courage and ingenuity, Mai manages to carve out a life for herself during the peak years of the American Vietnam War. It is a story of survival against insurmountable odds but it is also a story of love and hope.
    Gerry Tyler, Professor Emeritus of Political Science, University of Rhode Island
  • Mai Donohue's amazing story of war, survival and love conquering all is an inspiration. We never tire of Mai's stories and life lessons, learned the hard way.”
    Marty & Porter Halyburton (former POW in North Vietnam)
  • I read this book in a single sitting and since then have used it as a personal day to day tool to take measure of what’s really important.
    Molly Schiot, author of “Game Changers: The Unsung Heroines of Sports History”