In the fall of 1992, James Sullivan travels to Vietnam to bicycle from Saigon to Hanoi. He has just finished graduate school and has an assignment to write a magazine story about a country that is still subject to a U.S. trade embargo. But in Hue, the old imperial capital of Vietnam, the planned three-month bike trip takes a detour. Here, in a city spliced by the famed Perfume River and filled with French baroque villas, he finds himself bicycling over a moat to visit a beautiful shop girl who lives amid the ruins of the last imperial dynasty of Vietnam. She falls for him, but there's a catch. Several other suitors are vying for her hand, and one of them is an official with the city's police force. Over the Moat is the story of Sullivan's efforts to win Thuy's favor while immersing himself in Vietnamese culture, of kindly insinuating himself in Thuy's colorful and warm family, and of learning how to create a common language based on love and understanding.
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