Thursday, August 29, 2013

In the Shadow of the Banyan

By: Vaddey Ratner
Location: FIC RAT
Genre: Historical Fiction

The Killing Fields- the movie that made me weep beyond control- has a new story, a new voice- this story will leave you in the same state as the movie did me!!! Any story of tryanny and genocide makes me writh in powerlessness, the feeling that we humans can become so base, so cruel, so heartless. I am afraid this story- based on the authors own journey will make me experience those emotions all over again. Yet it is written so beautifully and written with hope- the brutality does not destroy  the beauty.

"The horrors committed by Cambodia's Khmer Rouge, as experienced by one extremely resilient girl. A brutal novel, lyrically told." Oprah Magazine

 "There will remain only so many of us as rest in the shadow of the banyan tree."

"Ratner's  first novel describes her family's story during the genocide carried out by the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia in the late 1970s. Despite the  effects of childhood polio, 7-year-old Raami is living a charmed existence. Her father is a minor royal prince and a sensitive, even saintly, poet, a member of the wealthy intelligentsia. Raami and her baby sister, Radana, are cared for by their beautiful young mother and a household of kindly, devoted servants in an atmosphere of privilege and also spiritual grace. Then comes the government overthrow. At first Raami's father is hopeful that the new leaders will solve the injustice, but soon the new government's true nature reveals itself. Like most of the city's residents, Raami's extended family, including aunts, uncle, cousins and grandmother, are soon ordered out of Phnom Penh. They seek refuge at their weekend house but are driven from there as well. Part of the mass exodus, they try not to draw attention to their royal background, but Raami's father is recognized and taken away, never to be seen again. Raami, her mother and Radana end up in a rural community staying in the primitive shack of a kindly, childless couple. There is little food and the work is backbreaking. During monsoon season, Radana perishes from malaria, and Raami blames herself because she did not protect her adequately from the mosquitoes. Raami and her mother are ordered to another community. For four years, one terrible event follows another, with small moments of hope followed by cruelty and despair. But her mother never stops protecting Raami, and although both grieve deeply for their lost loved ones, both find untapped stores of resilience". Kirkus Review.
In the Shadow of the Banyan is one of the most extraordinary and beautiful acts of storytelling I have ever encountered. . . . This book pulls off the unsettling feat of being—at the same time—utterly heartbreaking and impossibly beautiful. There are some moments in this story that are among the most powerful in literature. This is a masterpiece that takes us to the highs and lows of what human beings can do in this life, and it leaves us, correspondingly, both humbled and ennobled.—
Chris Cleave (author of The other Hand )


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