In the Shadow of the Banyan

Vaddey Ratner, Author
Vaddey Ratner. Simon & Schuster, $25 (336p) ISBN 978-1-4516-5770-8
Reviewed on: 05/21/2012
Release date: 08/01/2012
Hardcover - 322 pages - 978-1-84983-760-6
Hardcover - 336 pages - 978-1-84983-759-0
Hardcover - 464 pages - 978-1-4448-1702-7
Paperback - 322 pages - 978-1-4516-5771-5
Ebook - 400 pages - 978-1-84983-761-3
Book - 1 pages - 978-1-4423-4987-2
Hardcover - 571 pages - 978-1-4104-5231-3
Prebound-Glued - 322 pages - 978-0-606-32078-8
Ebook - 400 pages - 978-1-4711-1193-8
Open Ebook - 320 pages - 978-1-4516-5772-2
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The struggle for survival is relayed with elegance and humility in Ratner’s autobiographical debut novel set in Khmer Rouge–era Cambodia. Raami is seven when civil war erupts, and she and her family are forced to leave Phnom Penh for the countryside. As minor royalty, they’re in danger; the Khmer Rouge is systematically cleansing the country of wealthy and educated people. Escaping their Phnom Penh home aboard a rusty military vehicle, a gold necklace is traded for rice, and literacy can mean death; “They say anyone with glasses reads too much... the sign of an intellectual.” Amid hunger, the loss of much of her family, and labor camp toil, Raami clings to the beauty that her father has shown her in traditional mythology and his own poetry. Raami’s story closely follows that of Ratner’s own: a child when the Khmer Rouge took over in 1975, she endured years under their rule until she and her mother escaped to the United States in 1981. This stunning memorial expresses not just the terrors of the 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. Agent: Emma Sweeney. (Aug.)
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