These are the words of the reader nominating “In the Shadow of the Banyan” by Vaddey Ratner to be the 2013 One Read selection. Our nominator continues: “The language of this book is exquisite. Radner explores her childhood in this autobiographical novel set in Cambodia during the regime of the Khmer Rouge. History personalized touches readers in a way that dry facts cannot. Older readers remember this time, and younger people may be introduced to an era with which they are unfamiliar.”
Told from the tender perspective of a young girl who comes of age amid the Cambodian killing fields, this novel is based on the author’s personal story. 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. (From the publisher’s description.)
Want to know what books others in your community have read and loved? See other readers’ nominations for One Read 2013.