Down the Rabbit Hole is a monthly dark book subscription box that gives you one book, accompanied by 4 to 5 wrapped gifts that help you to experience the book on a completely different level; inside each book, there will be notes that tell you when to open which specific gift, and this gift goes along with what is happening at the moment in the story!
March's Down the Rabbit Hole box: 'Nothing Is Fair in Love and War'
Here is the synopsis for "Gods Go Begging" by Alfredo Vea:
" For Vietnam veteran Jesse Pasadoble, now a defense attorney living in San Francisco, the battle still rages: in his tortured memories, in the gang wars erupting on Potrero Hill, and in the recent slaying of two women - - - one black, one Vietnamese. In seeking justice for the young man accused of the brutal double murder, Jesse must walk with the ghosts of the men who died on another hill... men who were his comrades and friends in a war that crossed racial divides. Finding the truth means weaving together the disparate strands of his own life, as the atrocities of the present day become inextricably linked with a battle that took place one a hilltop on the Laotian border two decades before. "
Unlike most book boxes, you are encouraged to read by each accompanying gift being individually wrapped and numbered as 1 through 4 or 5; when you reach a certain page, you will be told by a small note to open a specific gift. If you open the gifts without reading the book, they won't make sense to you. You HAVE to read the corresponding pages to get a sense of what the gifts mean, and best of all, the gifts help to put the reader in the story making this an entire experience!
There is only one box you can purchase - - - there are no deluxe boxes, which is common among subscription boxes. Below is everything that came in my box, along with the passages that went with each gift from the book.
BOOKMARK: Two-Sided 'Gods Go Begging' Bookmark
This is a typical cardstock bookmark. I love the bookmark; it's another way to bring the reader into the story. I will be using this one for awhile.
GIFT 1: Vietnamese Traditional Coffee Phin Filter 4 .oz
This coffee press includes a built-in filter so you can brew to the ideal strength, tightening the press for a stronger beverage and loosening it to take the edge off. You can be sure this coffee press can stand up to the rigors of day-to-day use and is dishwasher safe. Simply add coffee and hot water to make a perfect cup of coffee. A traditional coffee consists of a strong and bitter brew made using dark roast, typically robusta, which is balanced with the sweetness of condensed milk.
I absolutely LOVE this coffee maker! I have never had one of these before, so I will definitely be using this often!
PASSAGE FROM BOOK:
" The restaurant would be just about the same size as her dear father's noodle cafe at the corner of Cong Ly and Le Loi Streets in Saigon. As she took a moment to daydream, the scent of bo vien, beef ball smothered in chile-garlic paste, filled her nostrils and her stunned soul. On her tongue is the sweet taste of ca phe sua, the sweet Vietnamese iced coffee. In her ears is the ping-ping sound of smoky Lambretta scooters, the huffing of shirtless men peddling cyclo-cabs, and the buzz of tiny Vespa trucks overloaded with brown packages, brown children, and white ducks. "
GIFT 2: A letter from Amos to Persephone (two characters in the book)
I like the idea of getting a letter that isn't in the book, but after reading the book, I have no use for the letter now. It will end up just stuffed inside the novel, and probably forgotten about. I would much rather get something I could use, that way, every time I use it, I would have thought of the two characters.
PASSAGE FROM BOOK:
" Neither woman had ever seen or heard from her man again. There had been a few letters from Amos, but they had been strange and rambling. His last letter had gone on and on about bebop ballet at the Pas de Calais. Try as she might, Persephone could not decipher the meaning of it. "
GIFT 3: A gold-plated dog tag with 'No Preference' on one side, and 'All we love is skin' on the other
This gift is a scene from the book that will stay with me for quite awhile; as I said in the gift before this one - this was an item that every time I look at it, I will always think of the padre in 'Gods Go Begging.' Well thought-out gift!
PASSAGE FROM BOOK:
" The chaplain checked the boy's dog tag for a religious preference. His fingers shook as he lifted the small neck chain, then pulled at it to view the tag. The words No Preference were engraved into the burned metal. Using his thumb, the chaplain made a cross on the boy's forehead. Behind the boy's body bag his helmet perched atop his M-16, its muzzle pushed down into the dirt. An hour ago his platoon had stood down to honor him and the others.
Hours ago the padre had become heart-sickened at the ticklish rubbing of his own selfish and cowardly lips against the earlobes of the dying. Despite all his best efforts, he had puked at the sight of open chest and stomach wounds, at the fragile plumbing, the crimson jellies and brackish rivulets just beneath the skin. He had never been able to stare at God's secret baggage without revulsion, and that revulsion had degraded his prayers until they were little more than feckless mumblings. His sickened face had, itself, become a profound betrayal, a ruthless mirror that showed pleading, desperate boys that there was no prayer in heaven or on earth that could keep them or their image alive.
'I have to close his eyes,' whimpered the padre.' I've got to close his eyes.'
'Why?' asked the sergeant. 'He slid out of his mother's sack face up with his eyes open. Now he's slid back into a sack. Let the poor bastard see where he's going. '
It had occurred to the young chaplain this morning that a man's intestines and kidneys looked remarkably like wet plastic bags filled with ocher and purplish fluids. Fibrous plastic bags filled with putrid juices seemed so carelessly jammed into the tightest spots beneath the ribs. He chuckled painfully at the thought of people dressed up and out on dates carrying those bags inside of them; they spoke of classic beauty and signed at the depth of love while those hideous bags gushed and gurgled inside of them.
'All we love it skin!' he screamed. "
GIFT 4: Two pieces of Jade
Jade is a silicate mineral often synonymous with East Asian art. It is part of the Jadeite class of mineral and is part of the monoclinic crystal system. Jade's meaning is confidence, acceptance, and health. Jade is a symbol of serenity and purity. It signifies wisdom gathered in tranquility. It increases love and nurturing. A protective stone. Jade keeps the wearer from harm and brings harmony. Jade attracts good luck and friendship. It stabilizes the personality and promotes self-sufficiency, soothes the mind, releasing negative thoughts, stimulates ideas.
Jade is present throughout the entire book, and I love that they added this to the box, because now when I carry this around with me, I will always think of Jesse and the Vietnamese.
PASSAGE FROM BOOK:
" 'Mister Pasadoble, I have a question that I must ask you. Back in the courtroom I saw you with that small piece of jade,' said Hong. ' To my amazement you placed it into your mouth. I have not seen that done in many years. I didn't think anyone believed in that anymore, especially here in America. '
Jesse looked at Hong, then reached into his pocket for the sliver of jade.
'I first put this stone into my mouth almost thirty years ago. Back then something unbelievable happened to me as soon as I closed my lips around this stone. It has never happened since, but I keep trying.'
'It works on very few men,' said Hong softly, 'and for those for whom it works, it does so only under very special circumstances.'
'Do you know what they are?' asked Jesse, his voice rising with hope.
'I had hoped that you could tell me,' smiled Hong. The interpreter reached into his own pocket and retrieved his own piece of jade. 'My father gave this to me.' He smiled. 'He told me that it was used against the French. He always said that the jade will only work for women, certain priests, or for men who are drowning. It has never worked for me. ' "
GIFT 5: A pair of metal chopsticks
This gift made perfect sense, with the Vietnam theme. I love using chopsticks, so I will be getting a lot of use out of this one. I'm not sure if they are stainless steel or silver plated, but they feel stainless.
PASSAGE FROM BOOK:
" One sunny morning - - - a morning lost among so many - - - a pensive Persephone sat at the kitchen table dipping cha gio into a bowl of hot pho ga. She closed her eyes to better appreciate the broth and spice. The subtlety of the flavors of Vietnam had never ceased to amaze her. If there had never been a war, she thought to herself, I would never have tasted this. I would still have a husband and we would have our own restaurant. Slowly an idea - - - Amos Flyer's idea- - - crept across her face, illuminating her skin with growing enthusiasm. "
This is my first box from Down the Rabbit Hole, and I am very happy with it! I highly recommend this box to people who love darker stories and getting lost in them. If you are interested in getting the book, you can get it here from Amazon!
My Box Rating:
"Gods Go Begging" by Alfredo Vea Review
"For Vietnam veteran Jesse Pasadoble, now a defense attorney living in San Francisco, the battle still rages: in the tortured memories, in the gang wars erupting on Potrero Hill, and in the recent slaying of two women - - - one black, one Vietnamese. In seeking justice for the young man accused of the brutal double murder, Jesse must walk with the ghosts of the men who died on another hill. . . men who were his comrades and friends in a war that crossed racial divides. Finding the truth means weaving together the disparate strands of his own life, as the artocities of the present day become inextricably linked with a battle that took place on a hilltop on the Laotian border two decades before. "
Click the picture above to get your own copy from Amazon!
Not many books can visit the Vietnam war so gracefully, especially fictional books that aren't political thrillers. Of course, there's a reason for that, other than drug use and the orders to kill innocent civilians, it was a war that drove soldiers to madness, but this is only the tip of the iceberg in Alfredo Vea's third novel Gods Go Begging.
Mai and Persephone are as close as sisters, one was born in America, and the other was born in Vietnam; the two met because their husbands had fought in the Vietnam war, but had never returned, sealing an unbreakable bond between the two women. While the two spent most of their time cooking together, they decided to open up a luncheonette, and share their love of food with the city - - - until one night, when two young men showed up to smash their dreams by murdering both of them in cold blood. Little did the defense attorney for one of the young men, Jesse Pasadoble, know that these women would not only leave a scar on him, but they would also cause memories from a hill in Vietnam to haunt him all over again.
While Pasadoble is working the two women's murder case, he's also working another heart-wrenching case involving a white supremacist who has possibly molested and raped his own niece. Pasadoble tries his best to distance himself from the case, especially because he has to defend the man in question, but sometimes he lets his temper get the best of him. Pasadoble comes face-to-face with his client in an angry stare-off. After putting up with racial statements from the client, Pasadoble puts him in his place. The client may be a big man who can frighten most people, but Pasadoble pacifies him with his own anger, threatening to kick his ass in front of everyone that is in the jail setting the tone of what type of person Pasadoble can be for the reader.
The readers get flashbacks of Pasadoble's time in the Vietnam war, specifically one fight that happened on a hill near the Loatian border. These flashbacks happen suddenly throughout the book, but I personally believe that they are so important to understanding the world in which Vea has created in the novel because, near the end of the book, these flashbacks make everything come full circle. One of these flashbacks introduces an important character who is the Padre in Pasadoble's platoon - - - during such flashback, the Padre has devastating things happen around him that begin to make him question his faith in God.
Although the flashbacks happen here and there, the story easily continues on with Pasadoble's double homicide case getting more complicated by the page when the second of the two suspects is suddenly found dead on a hill that the locals call 'Tourette's Hill.' One such local that lived near the hill is one of the victims' mothers, Mrs. Harp, who is a very odd character: she's an aging beauty queen whose home is covered in photographs of only her, and none of her deceased son, and even while Pasadoble questions her about her son, she seems to get lost in a reverie of what her life was like before the son existed.
Pasadoble is the key character in this story; without him, connections would not have been made and characters would not have mattered. Pasadoble, a man who has a way with words, such as speaking with an ex-girlfriend about a 'hill' : "Carolina, think about the stratifications of an open hillside, a place where earth has given way and time itself is left exposed, layer upon layer - - - silica, clay, diatoms, and ash. Down here at this level is the time of the swelling sea; here, the time of the desert when hot, rising air would have haunted our eyes; here is a jagged karst, a time when the world shook an abrasion into its own skin; and here are the fossil dead, here you will find love and war in the same shamble of strewn bone. Here and there, where the world has shifted and cracked open, one era will touch another. And once upon the rarest time, human hands and eyes from the distant past can seek out and find... search for and contact... hands and eyes of the present time... our time. " Pasadoble reveals that everyone has a 'hill' that they constantly battle, his just happens to be the one where he lost brothers on in Vietnam.
I can't go much further into the story without giving away some of the great details that made up this book, but I can say I was blown away by this story. This is by far one of the best crime fiction books I have ever read; this is one of those crazy good books that you have never heard of that will change how you view things after you read it. Vea is one of the few authors that exist today that can make a story read like poetry. I highly recommend this novel to people who like crime fiction.