All the Broken Pieces
Goodreads ratings
3.98 / 5

"All the Broken Pieces" Summary

By Ann E. Burg

historical fiction | 224 pages | Published in 2009

A remarkable literary debut by a stunning new voice in children's fiction.Two years after being airlifted out of war-torn Vietnam, Matt Pin is haunted: by bombs that fell like dead crows, by the family -- and the terrible secret -- he left behind. Now, inside a caring adoptive home in the United States, a series of profound events force him to choose between silence and candor, blame and forgiveness, fear and freedom.By turns harrowing, dreamlike, sad, and triumphant, this searing debut novel, written in lucid verse, reveals an unforgettable perspective on the lasting impact of war and the healing power of love.


Estimated read time: 5 min read

One Sentence Summary

A boy struggles to come to terms with his past as a child soldier in Vietnam and finds hope and redemption through his love for baseball.


"All the Broken Pieces" by Ann E. Burg is a powerful and heart-wrenching novel that explores the aftermath of the Vietnam War through the eyes of a young boy. The book delves into themes of identity, family, and resilience, offering a poignant portrayal of the human experience in the face of adversity.

Brief Synopsis

Plot Overview

The story is set in the aftermath of the Vietnam War and follows the life of a young boy named Matt Pin. Matt is airlifted out of war-torn Vietnam and adopted by an American family. As he struggles to adjust to his new life in the United States, he grapples with the memories of the war and the family he left behind. Through poetry and introspection, Matt navigates the complexities of his past and present, ultimately finding healing and hope.


The novel is primarily set in the United States, where Matt begins his new life with his adoptive family. However, through his memories and reflections, the story also transports readers back to the war-torn landscapes of Vietnam, offering a vivid portrayal of the country's tumultuous history.

Main Characters

The book features several main characters who play pivotal roles in shaping the narrative:

Matt PinThe protagonist, a young Vietnamese boy grappling with the trauma of war and his new life in America.
LinhMatt's birth mother, whose memory and love for her son deeply impact his journey.
Papa and MamaMatt's adoptive parents in the United States, who provide him with love and stability.
MaiA fellow Vietnamese refugee who becomes a close friend to Matt, offering him companionship and support.

Story Points Over Chapters

Chapter 1-5: Arrival in the United States

Matt grapples with the challenges of adapting to a new country and culture, while also coping with the trauma of his past in Vietnam. He forms a close bond with his adoptive parents, Papa and Mama, who offer him love and support as he navigates this new chapter in his life.

Chapter 6-10: Memories of Vietnam

Through a series of poignant flashbacks, Matt reflects on the harrowing experiences he endured during the war and the heartbreaking separation from his birth mother, Linh. These memories continue to haunt him, shaping his identity and emotional journey.

Chapter 11-15: Friendship and Healing

Matt befriends a fellow Vietnamese refugee named Mai, who becomes a source of comfort and companionship for him. Their friendship provides a glimmer of hope and healing as Matt continues to grapple with his past and find his place in his new home.

Chapter 16-20: Embracing Identity

As Matt's bond with his adoptive family strengthens, he begins to reconcile his Vietnamese heritage with his American upbringing. Through introspection and self-discovery, he learns to embrace his identity and find a sense of belonging in both cultures.

Chapter 21-25: Finding Closure

The novel culminates in a powerful journey of self-acceptance and closure for Matt as he confronts the ghosts of his past and finds solace in the love and support of his adoptive family. Through poetry and introspection, he finds the strength to move forward with resilience and hope.

Main Events

  1. Matt's arrival in the United States and his initial struggles to adapt to his new life.
  2. Flashbacks to Matt's experiences during the Vietnam War and the emotional turmoil he faces as he grapples with his traumatic past.
  3. The formation of a deep friendship with Mai, a fellow Vietnamese refugee, who becomes a source of comfort and support for Matt.
  4. Matt's journey towards embracing his identity and finding a sense of belonging in both his Vietnamese heritage and American upbringing.
  5. The culmination of Matt's emotional journey as he confronts his past, finds closure, and discovers the healing power of love and resilience.

Themes and Insights

Identity and Belonging

The novel delves into the complexities of identity, as Matt navigates his Vietnamese heritage and his new life in America. Through his journey, readers gain insight into the universal human longing for belonging and self-discovery.

Family and Love

The novel explores the profound impact of familial love and support, portraying the resilience and healing that can stem from deep connections with others. Matt's relationships with his birth mother, Linh, and his adoptive family highlight the enduring power of love in the face of adversity.

Resilience and Healing

Through Matt's emotional journey, the novel conveys themes of resilience and the capacity for healing in the aftermath of trauma. It offers a poignant portrayal of the human spirit's ability to find hope and strength in the most challenging circumstances.

Reader's Takeaway

"All the Broken Pieces" is a thought-provoking and emotionally resonant novel that offers readers a poignant exploration of the human experience. Through Matt's journey, readers are reminded of the enduring power of love, resilience, and the universal longing for identity and belonging. The novel's lyrical prose and heartfelt storytelling create an immersive reading experience that lingers long after the final page.


In conclusion, "All the Broken Pieces" by Ann E. Burg is a compelling and beautifully crafted novel that offers a poignant exploration of the aftermath of the Vietnam War and its impact on a young boy's life. Through themes of identity, family, and resilience, the novel invites readers to embark on an emotional journey of healing and hope, leaving a lasting impression of the power of love and human resilience.

All the Broken Pieces FAQ

  1. What is the genre of 'All the Broken Pieces'?

    The book 'All the Broken Pieces' by Ann E. Burg is a young adult fiction novel.

  2. What is the book 'All the Broken Pieces' about?

    The book follows the story of a young boy named Matt Pin, who is a Vietnamese adoptee living in the United States. The story explores themes of identity, family, and the impact of the Vietnam War.

  3. Who is the author of 'All the Broken Pieces'?

    The author of 'All the Broken Pieces' is Ann E. Burg.

  4. Is 'All the Broken Pieces' based on a true story?

    While 'All the Broken Pieces' is a work of fiction, it is inspired by the experiences of real-life Vietnamese adoptees and the aftermath of the Vietnam War.

  5. What age group is 'All the Broken Pieces' suitable for?

    The book is suitable for young adult readers, typically recommended for ages 12 and up.