Butterfly Street by Gerald Jennings

(about this author)

  • Destined to marry his stateside girlfriend after returning from his tour of duty in Vietnam, supply officer Lt. Jake Nelson keeps the numerous prostitutes of Saigon at arm's length. That is, until the resolute lieutenant meets a prostitute who loathes his privileged American judgment as much as he loathes those in her line of work.
    Tran Thi Mai—who uses her French name, Elise—is a devout Catholic and the sole caretaker of her nephew. She works as a prostitute to provide them both with food and shelter but longs for a life more attuned to her beliefs. Her beauty and modesty attract Jake like a siren's song toward emotional destruction while he unlocks her secrets, forcing him to take an honest look at himself.
    As the Viet Cong secretly plan their nightmarish Tet Offensive, Jake and Elise set plans for their future—and when Jake has set things, they always happen as planned. But has fate, influenced by war, set different plans for them?


    He lay beside her, hardly daring to breathe, watching a single sunbeam from the high window traverse her body, turning it golden slow inch by slow inch. Everything about her was achingly lovely as she slept—the breathtakingly beautiful hair, the naturally long, lush lashes, the perfect shell of her ear, the lovely curve of her breasts, the slight gentle swell of her stomach. He could hardly believe he had dared to touch her—and, amazingly, absurdly, unbelievably, find her still a virgin. Crazy…just frikkin’ crazy

    He was still stunned by that. His heart ached thinking of how hard it must have been for her to fend off the hands of so many drunken GIs, how determined she had to have been to save the one thing she had to give, how much anger and mistreatment she must have endured from innumerable disappointed strangers.

    Impossibly he knew he loved her, and the absurdity of that made him reel in disbelief, all the certainties of his previous life swept away beyond recall. Helpless, he was angry with himself. How—why—had he let this happen? It was totally insane. In a few brief months he would be getting on a plane at Tân S?n Nh?t and going back to the States. Nothing could get in the way of that. But out of nowhere, something had.

    The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men/Gang aft agley, he thought in a bad Burnsian brogue and snorted a laugh at the absurdity of it…

    She stirred in her sleep, murmuring some unintelligible words in Vietnamese, then fell silent once more, full lips curling into a slight smile. He had a sudden vicious urge to grab her, shake her out of her slumber, and tell her nothing was going to upset his plans for his life—but he knew if he touched her, it would be a caress, and he would end up kissing her, wanting her again, loving her even more…

    My God, he thought, shaking his head in negation, anguished. My God


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Butterfly Street

Butterfly Street

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