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.
Absolutely, I have done so to many of my friends and will continue to do so. It is a poignant story of hope and resilience, written in prose that is almost poetry.
Raami of course, followed by her mother.They are the central characters of the story around whom the whole tale revolves. Their fortitude and resilience are amazing!
Narration by Greta Lee, with her oriental enunciation and superb voice modulations brought an entirely new emotional dimension to the story, which the readers of print or Kindle copy will surely miss. Her voice is soothing and the narration speed is perfect!!
I wish I could have done that, but it is not possible with all else going on.
Vaddey Ratners prose is peotry, that was brought to life by Grta Ratner's narration.I had another angle on this book: I have spent two 3-weeks stints on a teaching assignment in Phnom Penh and hence, I got to know Cambodia and its people far better than a casual tourist would. Further, being of Indian origin, my deeper study of links of the Cambodian religion and culture with that of India as well as my delving into history of Cambodia including the details of Khmer Rogue regime, added a further dimension to my appreciation of the story.
While this familiarity enhanced my enjoyment, the book will touch anyone with a heart!
This is a powerful story about a young girl and her family that were impacted by the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia. The story, although fiction, is a version of a young girls experience in a war torn world where little makes sense. The author has a beautiful way of putting words together to paint pictures in your mind and find poetry in the phrase. Very good listen! I would recommend this to anyone who wants to look at a perspective of Cambodian history that no one wants to relive. So the story is sad... but oh so well written.
I both laughed and cried while listening to this book. I think the author did an amazing job of looking at devastation in human existence and then finding ways to find some love/hope and sometimes even beauty in awfulness.
This story is powerful and so beautifully told that I had to stop and re-read many sections over again. It is important because we should never forget the terrible atrocities committed against innocent people. Throughout the book the author is honest and insightful and through it all the message is of hope and never giving up. Remarkable. Emotional. Thanks to the author for sharing this difficult story so brilliantly.
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.
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