Picnic at the Iron Curtain
Viets took her first trip to Communist Hungary when she was a student, but ended up working as a journalist for The Guardian and helping East Germans defect to the West. She then moves to the Ukraine to watch independence take hold and struggles with the inexorable bureaucracy and corruption as the Soviet Union collapses. Later, her desire for travel sends her to the more alien world of Tajikistan, where she witnesses the start of a civil war and the ever-shifting landscape of a country in turmoil. While Viets has lived an exciting, fascinating life, she has failed to construct a proper narrative arc or smoothly guide readers through her tale. She ably reports on the events of her life, but doesn't turn those events into a structured story. As such, her experiences feel more like disjointed anecdotes—something that hinders her efforts to provide a cohesive view of life behind the Iron Curtain.