In the Shadow of the Banyan A Novel Author:Vaddey Ratner You are about to read an extraordinary story. It will take you to the very depths of despair and show you unspeakable horrors. It will reveal a gorgeously rich culture struggling to survive through a furtive bow, a hidden ankle bracelet, fragments of remembered poetry. It will ensure that the world never forgets the atrocities committed by the K... more »hmer Rouge regime in Cambodia between 1975 and 1979, when an estimated two million people lost their lives. It will give you hope, and it will confirm the power of storytelling to lift us up and help us not only survive but transcend suffering, cruelty, and loss. 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 the Khmer Rouge attempts to strip the population of every shred of individual identity, Raami clings to the only remaining vestige of her 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 a brilliantly wrought tale of human resilience.« less
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This is a novel about the Khmer Rouge takeover in Cambodia as written by a survivor who experienced the events as a five-year old child. She says in an interview following the story that she at first wanted to write a memoir but ended up writing a novel instead, and this leads to the main problem with the book. Although the book is narrated by a seven-year old, it's written in an adult voice and this leads to a often-present disconnect. No seven year old would describe things as lyrically and with the adult reason present in her supposed narrative. Having an adult narrate the book might have been a better choice for that reason.
Although I wouldn't read this book again, it's a compelling and at times beautifully written book that lays bare some of the horrors of a civil war that is often forgotten in western history. The family bonds and emotions of the characters in the story ring true and this lends a power to the book, even with the too-old narrative voice. If you can emotionally handle a book on this subject matter, I would probably recommend it.