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In the Shadow of the Banyan: A Novel | [Vaddey Ratner]

In the Shadow of the Banyan: A Novel

For seven-year-old Raami, the shattering end of childhood begins with the footsteps of her father returning home in the early dawn hours bringing details of the civil war that has overwhelmed the streets of Phnom Penh, Cambodia’s capital. Soon the family’s world of carefully guarded royal privilege is swept up in the chaos of revolution and forced exodus. Over the next four years, as she endures the deaths of family members, starvation, and brutal forced labor, Raami clings to the only remaining vestige of childhood - the mythical legends and poems told to her by her father.
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Publisher's Summary

Told from the tender perspective of a young girl who comes of age amid the Cambodian killing fields, this searing first novel - based on the author’s personal story - has been hailed by Little Bee author Chris Cleave as “a masterpiece… utterly heartbreaking and impossibly beautiful.”

For seven-year-old Raami, the shattering end of childhood begins with the footsteps of her father returning home in the early dawn hours bringing details of the civil war that has overwhelmed the streets of Phnom Penh, Cambodia’s capital. Soon the family’s world of carefully guarded royal privilege is swept up in the chaos of revolution and forced exodus.

Over the next four years, as she endures the deaths of family members, starvation, and brutal forced labor, Raami clings to the only remaining vestige of childhood - the mythical legends and poems told to her by her father. In a climate of systematic violence where memory is sickness and justification for execution, Raami fights for her improbable survival. Displaying the author’s extraordinary gift for language, In the Shadow of the Banyan is testament to the transcendent power of narrative and a brilliantly wrought tale of human resilience.

©2012 Vaddey Ratner (P)2012 Simon & Schuster

What the Critics Say

"This stunning memorial expresses not just the terrors ofthe Khmer Rouge but also the beauty of what was lost. A hauntingly powerful novel imbued with the richness of old Cambodian lore, the devastation of monumental loss, and the spirit of survival." (Publishers Weekly)

"Vaddey Ratner's novel is ravishing in its ability to humanize and personalize the Cambodian genocide of the 1970s. She makes us look unflinchingly at the evil that humankind is capable of, but she gives us a child to hold our hand - an achingly believable child - so that we won't be overwhelmed. As we have passed from one century of horrors and been plunged into a new century giving us more of the same, In the Shadow of the Banyan is a truly important literary event." (Robert Olen Butler, author of A Good Scent from a Strange Mountain)

"Often lyrical, sometimes a bit ponderous: a painful,personal record of Cambodia's holocaust." (Kirkus Reviews)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

4.2 (246 )
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4.3 (207 )
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  •  
    ken 09-11-12
    ken 09-11-12
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    "Surprisingly good - a powerful and poignant story"
    Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

    Absolutely - it is an extremely well written account of the ordeal of a girl and her family at the hands of the communist khmer rouge regime - truly heart rending. Ms. Ratner writes with the voice of a poet. I was seriously moved by this work of art.


    What was one of the most memorable moments of In the Shadow of the Banyan?

    There were many - but the scene in the buddhist temple early in the book was quite striking and hauntingly beautiful.


    What about Greta Lee’s performance did you like?

    I loved the innocence of her voice.


    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Hilary Ajijic, Mexico 09-10-12
    Hilary Ajijic, Mexico 09-10-12 Member Since 2011
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    "A tribute to story telling and parental love"

    I didn't think I would enjoy this after seeing the Genocide Museum in Cambodia. However the author has written a beautiful tribute in which I felt she has showed herself so well to be her parent's daughter. The horrors of the regime were vanquished by her rich description of familial strength, ingenuity and love. I thought the narration excellent.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Ron Vancouver, BC, Canada 08-22-12
    Ron Vancouver, BC, Canada 08-22-12

    A great fan of stories and audiobooks. Good ones.

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    "Unfathomable depths of sadness"

    Beautiful and horrific all at once and combined. The almost unimaginable horrors this small child had to live through, that most humans could not comprehend, are told in exquisite and often poetic detail. This is a story of a dismantling of a country and a society, and the family that she loses can almost be seen as a metaphor for the entire four years of the reign of terror the Khmer Rouge.

    Often times disturbing, this might not be everyone. But it is like a history lesson, and a lesson and example as to the inhumanity that is still contained within humanity.

    The narration is very good, but just a little lacking, considering the drama there was to work with in the story. But I enjoyed it, and it has taken a few days of reflection before I could attempt this review, for the simple fact that the story is haunting me and will for a while.

    Thank you Vaddey Rutner for being so brave to retell this story. The strength you showed just surviving those horrors lives on. You are a special human being.

    3 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Deborah Wylie, TX, United States 08-23-12
    Deborah Wylie, TX, United States 08-23-12 Member Since 2009

    Traveler

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    "A story of family love and shocking circumstances"
    Would you say that listening to this book was time well-spent? Why or why not?

    It is an important story, but lessened by the choice of a western sounding voice to tell the story.


    Who would you have cast as narrator instead of Greta Lee?

    The author, herself, or someone sounding like the author should have put the story into the minds of the listener.


    Did In the Shadow of the Banyan inspire you to do anything?

    The re-telling of this story made me thank the people of the churches in the Boston area who brought Cambodian refugees to the USA in the 1980's from refugee camps in Thailand. I met the refugees there, I- a new teacher of English as a second language, and they- the hurt and hopeful immigrants. They told me these stories first-hand. They changed my life and changed my opinion my own countrymen. God bless them all.


    Any additional comments?

    The escape attempts from the work camps and the rules against having unauthorized food (found eggs, etc.) are other stories of bravery that should be told. Perhaps other Cambodians would please fill in the blanks from your experience or from the experiences of your parents.

    3 of 5 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Brandy 09-30-14
    Brandy 09-30-14 Member Since 2010
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    "A beautifully performed heart-wrenching story"
    Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

    I would highly recommend this book. It is beautifully written and tells a story about a place (Cambodia) and a time, the violent era of the 1970's, with which I was almost totally unfamiliar. Through the story I learned about both and suffered with the very true to life characters


    What was one of the most memorable moments of In the Shadow of the Banyan?

    I have tried to think how to answer this question without giving away important parts of the book, and feel that I cannot. Instead, I will say that what was memorable for me was the way in which a very young child was forced to mature and take responsibility at way too early an age.


    Which character – as performed by Greta Lee – was your favorite?

    The main character, a 7 year old girl called Rami.


    Any additional comments?

    At times I felt that Rami was actually too mature for her age, but the horrors of senseless cruelty and depravation can be very maturing factors in one's life. Even had she been twice her age at the onset of the book, the story would have been no less dramatic and touching.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    E. Mathur Cleveland, Oh 05-22-14
    E. Mathur Cleveland, Oh 05-22-14 Member Since 2012
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    "I couldn't stop crying at the end!"
    If you could sum up In the Shadow of the Banyan in three words, what would they be?

    Heartbreak, heartbreak, and more heartbreak


    What was one of the most memorable moments of In the Shadow of the Banyan?

    At the very end, the author speaks. I could not stop crying.


    What does Greta Lee bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

    It was great to have someone pronounce the names better than I would have if I would have read it myself.


    Any additional comments?

    I did not know much about the Khmer Rouge. This book captures what a tragedy this time was during history. It is a must read!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Belinda Somewhere, CA 10-02-12
    Belinda Somewhere, CA 10-02-12 Member Since 2006

    Marble Book

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    "Exceptionally good book"

    The poetically and beautifully written book told a brutal story experienced by the Cambodian Royal family through the eyes of the little princess. Since it's written based on real life experience, the cruelty of the reality is like the worst nightmare one could ever have. It's also inspiring that for the princess and her loving and strong mother, going through all the unimaginable hardship, they still could find their hope somewhere.

    One of the best books I have read. Couldn't stop listening. Highly recommend it.

    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Nan Ayers San Mateo, CA 09-10-12
    Nan Ayers San Mateo, CA 09-10-12 Member Since 2004
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    "A Different Perspective"
    What did you like best about In the Shadow of the Banyan? What did you like least?

    The story is told by a young princess of Cambodia which gives it a different perspective of the Cambodian "Killing Fields." It is a tribute to survival and has some compelling characters, but it gets lost in poetic wanderings.


    What do you think your next listen will be?

    Finding Nouf


    Which character – as performed by Greta Lee – was your favorite?

    The narrator


    If this book were a movie would you go see it?

    Maybe but I doubt it would be made into a movie without being changed considerably.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Rodney A. Zemke Woodbury, MN USA 10-11-12
    Rodney A. Zemke Woodbury, MN USA 10-11-12 Member Since 2006

    Retired. Have been listening to book since 1977.

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    "Disappointing"
    What did you like best about In the Shadow of the Banyan? What did you like least?

    I did learn a few more things regarding the tragic events in Cambodia. The character development was weak. The author did a poor job of telling us a story regarding these events.


    Do you think In the Shadow of the Banyan needs a follow-up book? Why or why not?

    No


    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Michal Scotsdale, AZ, United States 09-11-12
    Michal Scotsdale, AZ, United States 09-11-12 Member Since 2009

    I live in Scottsdale, Arizona. I have 5 grown children, play ukuele exercise, and read.

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    "Basically too long and very boring"
    Would you try another book from Vaddey Ratner and/or Greta Lee?

    I'm sorry, but this story has been told too many times. There's nothing original about the book and I I to force myself to finish it just because I paid for it. Very boring.


    Has In the Shadow of the Banyan turned you off from other books in this genre?

    No


    What about Greta Lee’s performance did you like?

    Just okay


    You didn’t love this book... but did it have any redeeming qualities?

    It was just boring and not much new The whole idea of the story being told from a young observer grew tiresome very quickly. I should have paid attention to the other reviews.


    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
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