Duong Thu Huong, in the novel Paradise of the Blind, tells the story of Hang, a young Vietnamese woman who is forced to go to the Soviet Union to work because of dire economic circumstances in her native land. She is also forced to cut short her education. Hang travels to the Soviet Union by train, and on the way the young woman's memories form the bulk of the book, and they are highly critical of the conditions of life in Vietnam. There is no area of life in that land that escapes her criticism
---women's rights, communism, health care, hunger, the bureaucracy, land reform, Confucianism, patriarchy, poverty, and so on. At the same time, it is clear that she loves her homeland, a fact which is reflected in her glowing descriptions of the country and the people. In novel form, the book is a history of the nation over the last three decades.
For the most part, Hang is a victim of forces beyond her control in Vietnamese society. The telling of her story is a step toward taking charge of her own destiny. It is also a step toward moving away from the memories which have formed her novel. It seems that she is ready and willing to let go of those memories, now that she has given them form in her story, but it is not certain what she sees in terms of the future:
I'm going to sell this house and leave all this behind. We can honor the wishes of the dead with a few flowers on a grave somewhere. I can't squander my life tending these faded flowers, these shadows, the legacy of the past. . . . I . . . dreamed of different worlds, of the cool shade of a university auditorium, of a distant port where a plane could land and take off (258).
Whatever the future holds, the connection of Hang to her homeland, and to her own magical childhood, will remain intact. She is not leaving Vietnam behind, but she is leaving behind the "paradise of the blind" which was that childhood. She is no longer innocent about what was wrong with her life and ...