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
"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)
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.
There were many - but the scene in the buddhist temple early in the book was quite striking and hauntingly beautiful.
I loved the innocence of her voice.
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.
A great fan of stories and audiobooks. Good ones.
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.
It is an important story, but lessened by the choice of a western sounding voice to tell the story.
The author, herself, or someone sounding like the author should have put the story into the minds of the listener.
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.
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.
Linda in Omaha
This is the story of the effects of war on a 5 year old child. She was a princess in Cambodia when the Revolutionaries started a war against the upper classes, which included anyone educated enough to read or write This was during the Vietnam war. The suffering of the people was terrible. Thousands died in Cambodia. Rami (sp?) was one of the few survivors of her family. Couldn't stop listening.
What a story.....it won't leave my mind. I was very involved in the peace movement during the Viet Nam conflict and how I could have missed this major event in Cambodia is mind boggling. Did the U.S. government simply decide to not allow this story in print or did I miss the whole thing??? After reading this book I did my own research on what happened in Cambodia following the Viet Nam debacle and was stunned. This story tells the tale from a very up close and personal point of view of events that occurred in Cambodia during the '70's. It is a hard read. The author has given Cambodia and history a look inside her country and an accounting that absolutely had to happen. Am so glad I finally took this out of my 'wish list' and gave it a listen.
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
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.
The main character, a 7 year old girl called Rami.
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.
Heartbreak, heartbreak, and more heartbreak
At the very end, the author speaks. I could not stop crying.
It was great to have someone pronounce the names better than I would have if I would have read it myself.
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!
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.
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