Connie's Reviews > In the Shadow of the Banyan

In the Shadow of the Banyan by Vaddey Ratner
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Feb 21, 14

bookshelves: asia, war, winter-2013-14, historical-fiction, cambodia
Read from February 16 to 21, 2014

It sends chills through me when I think about the atrocities committed by the Khmer Rouge when they gained control in Cambodia in 1975. Vaddey Ratner wrote a fictional story that was based on her family's actual experiences.

Raami was a seven-year-old girl living a life of privilege as the daughter of a prince. Her father was a poet who loved telling her traditional fables, which emotionally helped her after she had polio as a one-year-old. Her father told Raami, "When I thought you couldn't walk, I wanted to make sure you could fly."

The story starts off slowly as it shows the family's life as royals. There was mass confusion when the Khmer Rouge came into power, and intellectuals and royals were marked for extermination. The Khmer Rouge forced people out of their homes. They were sent to work in the rice paddies, or off to dig earth and stones to form huge dams to hold back the water from the monsoons. The people were starved, tortured, and killed. The survivors were dealing with the grief of losing their loved ones. The story of Raami's family keeps picking up pace--and increasing in terror--until Raami is mute and near starvation before they finally escape.

The author was only five-years-old in 1975, and she escaped into Thailand four years later with her mother. They arrived in the United States in 1981, and she became a high achieving student. Vaddey Ratner writes in a beautiful lyrical manner. It must have taken great courage to relive this experience in her mind as she was writing this book.

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02/16 marked as: currently-reading
02/21 marked as: read

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