Tuesday, September 18, 2012

In The Shadow of the Banyan

Title:  In The Shadow of the Banyan
Author:  Vaddey Ratner
Publication Information:  Simon & Schuster. 2012. 322 pages.

Book Source:  I read this book based on reading the publicity for it.

Favorite Quote:  "Love hides in all sorts of places, in the most sorrowful corner of your heart, in the darkest and most hopeless situation."

In the Shadow of the Banyan is the story of seven-year old Raami, who is caught up in the Khmer Rouge regime in Cambodia in the 1970s. The regime of the Khmer Rouge has the history of genocide, famine, disease, and destruction. This book tells a very personal story of that time. Though a fictionalized account, the book is autobiographical in its basis.

Raami is part of the royal family of Cambodia, and through this time period, suffers with her family. She suffers hardships beyond our imagination - separation from family, death of family members, starvation, and forced labor. Yet, she also finds moments of beauty and love. Throughout, she fights for survival.

It is somewhat disconcerting to read this book. The book describes such horrors, yet the imagery is at the same time heart-breakingly beautiful. The book is narrated through Raami's eyes - the innocent eyes of a seven year old. Yet, the insights and the poetic descriptions cannot be attributed to a child so young.

This seems to be a disconnect in the book. Yet, for the most part, it ceases to matter. I am so captured by the imagery and the emotions that I willingly put that aside. Periodically, there are moments of innocence that bring me back to the point that the narrator is seven. Yet, mostly, I remain entrenched in the story feeling the emotions and fighting for Raami's survival.

These words from the book itself describe it well..."Words, you see, allow us to make permanent what is essentially transient. Turn a world filled with injustice and hurt into a place that is beautiful and lyrical. Even if only on paper."

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