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Fire Road by Kim Phuc (Book Review)

Fire Road by Kim Phuc (Book Review)


‘Fire Road’ is such a good book! It is gripping and completely arresting. It recounts the story of how a Vietnamese girl, Kim Phuc Phan Thi (age 9), was bombed with napalm while fleeing to safety on a road in 1972. She was taken to hospital - and miraculously survived - then spent her teenage life under the Vietnamese Communist government. She later went to Cuba to study, then defected to Toronto, Canada and eventually became a UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador. 

It’s a book detailing so much pain, and she is drawn increasingly into prayer, focussing on Jesus and His healing for her. Kim Phuc is still not fully healed, but she always brings a ‘word of faith’ from God into any situation she finds herself in. 

This is a remarkable title, and one which I have no hesitation in writing about. 

The Author

Kim Phuc has received numerous awards and recognition for her commitment to global peace and reconciliation. This includes six honorary doctorates for her work in supporting child victims of war around the world. 

She helped launch the ‘Restoring Heroes Foundation’, an organisation that serves military and first responders who have suffered traumatic scars, burns or amputations by providing them access to ‘state-of-the-art’ medical treatment.

Kim and her husband Toan have two grown-up sons and live in the Toronto area of Canada. 

The Book

‘Fire Road’ is 266 pages long and consists of 31 short chapters. It’s an easy but gripping read. For me, it was all the more remarkable by the fact that I fully remember this photograph from the 1970s. It was the photo that defined the Vietnam War. I had not seen it since, and to get this book and then to read Kim’s story was a wonderful experience for me. All the years I was growing up, Kim was dealing with her pain and growing deeply into her experience of Christ. Remarkable!

The Americans finally left Vietnam in April 1975, three years after the photograph was taken. South Vietnam was ordered to lay down their weapons for the North had overtaken Saigon: ‘We all were communists now’

In 1982, Kim was living in Saigon. She remained in much pain. Later Kim was in the Saigon Central Library looking at Vietnamese books of religion. She selected a book on Christianity and was later led to the Lord in a church. The pastor was then taken away by the authorities and Kim was left to sort out her own faith with God. 

It’s a stunning story of how God took a woman wracked with much pain and gradually led her to Himself, really without anyone else helping her. Kim was clearly a strong individual. She was used by the Communist government, often quite wrongly, in speaking about what had happened to her. She felt very badly about this, but simply could not change it. 

Being manipulated by the Communist authorities in this way had a very bad effect on Kim’s studies and she was a long way behind everyone else. In the end she went to Hanoi and petitioned the Vietnamese Prime Minister, Bac Dong. He arranged for her to travel to Cuba where she was able to study. Later, she married and whilst returning from Moscow from her honeymoon, she and her husband Toan defected to Canada, which is where they now live. 

They had a tough time settling into Canada. They could not work for two years, but during this time Toan became a Christian. Five years later, Kim became a UNESCO Goodwill ambassador. She now travels the world speaking to many groups about her own experience, coupled with her understanding of the Christian faith. 

Kim writes at the end of her book, 

‘I thought about the race I had run for so long. A desperate attempt to flee the bombs and the war, my picture and also my pain. I had run from my religion. I had run from Communist control. I had run from Vietnam. I had run from Cuba too. 

Motivated by sorrow, and then by rage, and then by fear, and then by resolve, I had spent so much of my life running, convinced that for me, there was no other choice. And yet the path I had been racing along all the time had taken me straight into the arms of God’. 

The whole story is quite outstanding and shows the power that God has over our lives, even when we do not realise it. It’s even more extraordinary that most of this took place in countries well beyond the ‘Christian’ Western world – Vietnam, Cuba and Russia! 

God is not really bothered by our systems of government - capitalist or communist - but He is very concerned about how we, as individuals, live our lives, regardless of our own government

Do read this book. I’m sure that it will help you, as it did me. 

Eddie Olliffe

Bookseller and Distributor for the past 35 years. Now Consulting Editor of Together Magazine. I blog on Christian Spirituality, UK Publishing and Bookselling matters.

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Products mentioned in or related to this blog post
Fire Road (Paperback)
Thi, Kim Phuc Phan; Wiersma, A
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