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In the Shadow of the Banyan

4.05  ·  Rating details ·  17,809 ratings  ·  2,453 reviews
Displaying the author's extraordinary gift for language, In the Shadow of the Banyan is testament to the transcendent power of narrative and a brilliantly wrought tale of human resilience.

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 overwhe
Hardcover, 322 pages
Published August 7th 2012 by Simon Schuster
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Eleanor Jones It's level is 1110 but Lexile is the measurement of a books difficulty and 1110 is on the larger side however its a good level for a 10thish grader t…more It's level is 1110 but Lexile is the measurement of a books difficulty and 1110 is on the larger side however its a good level for a 10thish grader to adult(less)

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Julie Christine
Aug 29, 2012 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Julie Christine by: Jill
To render historical, political fiction in the voice and through the eyes of a young child, a writer sets herself a tremendous challenge and takes on great risk. Children are naturally fanciful, unreliable creatures - not dishonest, but only able to offer the truth as their immature brains can grasp and explain it. When the story is revealed as the author's own, the reader feels compelled to accept a fictionalized account as mere degrees of separation from the truth.

What Vaddey Ratner has accom
Brown Girl Reading
I read In the Shadow of the Banyan at the beginning of the month. It took me three and a half days to read but then plunged me into a week + worth of thought. We’re nearing the close of the month of May and I still can’t get this book off my mind. I figure my reading for the month of May was all worth it because I had the pleasure of experiencing my second 5 star book of the year 2014. Now if you’ve been following me here or over at frenchiedee you know that I absolutely don’t have a habit of gi ...more
Jenny (Reading Envy)
This is the last book of 2019, just under the wire to squeeze one more Asian country in there. This incredible and poetic novel is parallel to the author’s lived experience of an idyllic early childhood descended from royalty in Cambodia cut short by being forced from her home and into work camps, and surviving the genocide that killed 1/4-1/3 of the population in the country. Definitely read the end matter in this book.

I can't undersell the beauty of the writing, the brilliant capture of a chil
Oct 25, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: debut-novels
This novel was slow going for me. This was a story the author admits is pretty much her own, of a childhood derailed and torn apart by the Revolution in Cambodia in the 1970s. As a sheltered and privileged child, she and her family are particularly vulnerable and very much unaware of what is brewing around them as they are evacuated from Phnom Penh and sent off to become farm laborers. Maybe it's just that she writes it a little too carefully, hanging on to people and moments a beat too long, fl ...more
Aug 06, 2012 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Tania by: Tonya
I didn't know so much sadness could exist in so small a place

This must be one of the most exquisitely written books I've read in a long time. It's based on the authors own experience during the regime of Cambodia's Khymer Rouge. There is a few things that stands out and makes this different to other war/genocide books I've read. Firstly, the first part of the book is very slow and focuses on the beauty rather than the impending horror. At first I didn't understand, but closer to the end I realiz
“words, you see," he said, looking at me again, "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.”
― Vaddey Ratner, In the Shadow of the Banyan

This is a true story about the Cambodian Genocide and I would really suggest one read it. It is not just the story which is gut wrenching. It is the writing itself. The writing is exquisite.

I am awed when I encounter someone who can write like this..who can tur
Jennifer Rayment
Apr 25, 2012 rated it it was amazing
The Good Stuff

Heartbreaking - this story will haunt you long after you have read it
The prose is so exquisite and beautifully written, such talent for first time author
It is hard for me to express how spectacular this book is, everything I want to say sounds trite when compared to the beauty of the authors words and the horror she lived through
Raami is such a strong girl, one to be admired for her strength of character and her ability to transcend the horrific tragedy she lived through and to
Apr 21, 2020 rated it really liked it
There will remain only so many of us as rest in the shadow of a banyan tree.

A beautiful, lyrical, melancholic book. I was first introduced to the atrocities in Cambodia through the memoir, First They Killed My Father: A Daughter of Cambodia Remembers. I suggest that book as a companion read for a reader who wants to be more aware of that war and of the infamous Khmer Rouge.

Looking at the pictures of Phnom Penh these days, one wouldn't guess the cruelty that existed before, but this novel, based
Jun 30, 2012 rated it it was amazing
How can a book break your heart & make your heart soar all at once? How can certain passages be of a horrific nature & yet be written in such a beautiful way that you must go back & re-read them? I don't know how, but this book does that. A story about the Cambodian genocide and all the tragedies that came from the Khmer Rouge coming into power in 1975, it is nontheless a beautiful book. The subject matter is heartbreaking & disturbing, reading about the true evil some people posess always is, b ...more
Aug 27, 2012 rated it it was amazing
It is a few hours since I turned the last pages of this haunting and powerful novel, and I am still trembling from its nearly unbearable power. Such is the power of Vaddey Ratner’s story telling.

And it is story telling that is at the core of this book. At one point, Ms. Ratner reflects, “A story, I had learned, through my own constant knitting and re-knitting of remembered words, can lead us back to ourselves, to our lost innocence, and in the shadow it casts over our present world, we begin to
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This is interesting and somewhat informative as a semi-autobiographical narrative of living through the khmer-rouge takeover of Cambodia in the 70's. As a novel it doesn't fare so well. I found myself skimming most chapters to extract an ok story from a swamp of flowery prose. The content-to-fluff ratio is about 1:3 most of the time, with occasional stretches of more focused story telling. It's not bad fluff as the stuff goes, and if it's your kind of thing then it may heighten your appreciation ...more
Joy D
Moving and tragic story of Raami, a seven-year-old girl, and her family, as they, along with the rest of the population, are forced by the Khmer Rouge to evacuate Phnom Penh. They are relocated a number of times, and endure violence, oppression, physical deprivations, mental anguish, separation, and deaths of loved ones. In the Shadow of the Banyan is based on the author’s experience as a small child in Cambodia. She wrote it to honor the lives of the estimated two million people, including some ...more
Apr 11, 2012 rated it really liked it
I finished this last night. Yes, it was well done. Probably the reason I liked it was that it is based on the author's experiences, from which she has crafted her novel. I thought the end was better than the beginning. The end very well depicted the horrors and the supreme idiocy of the Khmer Rouge regime. The tamer beginning reflects the innocence of the young girl, which is not inappropriate. She was at the beginning only seven! In reality, the author was only five.

The traditional Cambodian cu
Jul 29, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: debut, fiction
In the Shadow of the Banyan will be published August 7th by Simon & Schuster. My sincere thanks for the opportunity to read this in e-galley format.

With a poetic voice, Ratner plunges us into this personal trial of a royal family wrenched from their home in Phnon Penh, Cambodia, during the late seventies; a time of revolution. Robbed of her childhood, the narrator, seven year old Raami, brings us on this horrific displacement as she and her family endure homelessness, hunger, hard labor and the
Nov 08, 2012 rated it really liked it
As a senior in high school, it scares me that I didn't know how to properly pronounce "Khmer Rogue" before reading this book. Even worse was my ignorance of Cambodia's history in the late 1970's - the genocide that took place serves as a lesser-known Holocaust, the horrors these people endured similar to that of the Jews.

In the Shadow of the Banyan follows seven-year-old Raami as she witnesses the communist regime take everything away from her. Through her eyes Vaddey Ratner displays the evocati
Apr 24, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This book is a hauntingly heartbreaking tale of the atrocities experienced by the Cambodian people in the mid 1970’s. It is based on the author’s own experiences as a child in Cambodia. While it is a devastating tale it is also a tribute to her father with whom she shared a strong bond and a story of hope and perseverance. The book is beautifully written and will stay with me for a long time.

I love this quote from the author, Vader Rattner:

"For all the loss and tragedy I have known, my life has
Nina (Every Word A Doorway)
In the Shadow of the Banyan is a semi-fictional debut written by a survivor of the Khmer Rouge regime in Cambodia. This is a touching but devastating tale of power, family, and survival. I saw this book at a store, having never heard of its existence before. No one had recommended this to me. No shop assistant had pointed me in its direction. I stumbled across this beautiful, heart-felt debut by chance, and I'm glad I did.

"First and foremost, I wanted to honour the lives lost and those who m
Jun 22, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, favorites
“They say mine is a ravaged land,
Scarred and broken by hate-
On a path to self-extermination,
Yet no other place
So resembles my dream of heaven.
The lotus fields that cradle my home.
Each flower a reincarnated spirit-
Or perhaps, like me,
A child who wishes to be reborn
Should dreams become possible again.
It’s true mine is a life of poverty
My home a half-built thatched hut,
Its walls the winds and rains.”

In The Shadow Of The Banyan is a remarkable work of fiction based on the author’s real life experien
Diane S ☔
Mar 01, 2012 rated it really liked it
The killing fields of Cambodia, the Khmer Rouge in power from 1975-1979 before the Vietnamese drove them out, by this time one to two million Cambodians were either killed, starved to death or committed suicide. Raami is seven, her father a prince and a poet who has instilled in her a love for stories and words, which he told her would give her wings and allow her to see the beauty in even the ugliest things.
a the start of this, when they are herded into the streets and taken from camp to camp,
Sonja Arlow
Jul 30, 2013 rated it it was ok
This semi-autobiographical novel is based on the invasion of the Khmer Rough in Cambodia during the 1970’s. Although it contains beautifully graphic descriptions of scenery and the Cambodian folklore I really struggled to connect with this book.

The story was told mainly in metaphorical flowery prose by a narrator whose voice didn’t ring true. No 7 year old child, no matter how precocious, could remember so much detail or draw such poignant connections and observations of her surroundings. Perha
Aug 27, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I visited Siem Reap as part of a 3 week trip to Southeast Asia in April 2012. I found the people of Siem Reap to be kind, warm, friendly and incredibly interested in America. When we would tell them we are from the DC area (Potomac MD) they wanted to know more. The country is rebuilding at break neck pace, but in its.midst are children who don't go to school and are put to work to help the family earn money. My daughter paid what they considered to be a "hefty fine" at the border because she did ...more
May 10, 2013 rated it really liked it
In preparation for our trip to Cambodia and the Killing Fields near Phnom Penh I read three books: In the Shadow of the Banyan by Vaddey Ratner, First They Killed My Father by Loung Ung, and When Glass Floats by Chanrithy Him. Each of the three books was about a young girl who, with their families, suffered under the Khmer Rouge communist regime and their genocide campaign.

The Khmer Rouge took control of Phnom Penh, its last obstacle to ruling all of Cambodia, on April 17th, 1975. They turned t
Mar 02, 2013 rated it it was amazing
In 1975, when my own daughter was 7 years old, the Khmer Rouge overthrew the government of Cambodia and the life of 7 year old Raami was forever changed.

'In the Shadow of the Banyan' is an exquisitely written book about that dark time in history. From 1975-1979, the country's people endured incomprehensible horror and systematic genocide. 1975 is no longer- the revolutionaries have declared it Year Zero.

When Raami and her family are ousted from their home, they begin the trek which will take th
Connie G
Aug 02, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
Mar 17, 2012 rated it liked it
Based on the author’s experiences as a young child in the Khmer Rouge’s Cambodia in the 1970’s, this novel contrasts the worst in human behavior with the astonishing ability to dream of better times. Despite loss and starvation, forced labor and wanton cruelty, young Raami never gives up her belief in the power of stories to save us, the power of words as wings.

One thought, and I wonder if any other readers had this reaction. I really enjoyed reading this book, although enjoyed is not quite the
Jul 28, 2012 rated it it was ok
The biggest problem in "In the Shadow of the Banyan" is the seven year old girl, Raami, narrating a story in the words of an adult woman. Raami is consistently viewing the world through an adult's eyes, verbalizing observations that go well beyond a child's level of understanding. It's not that she necessarily realizes things that a child wouldn't be aware of, rather that she describes them so specifically, spelling them out for the reader. It's a tactic that is both condescending for a mature r ...more
Aug 05, 2013 rated it liked it
The innocent eyes of a child are the perfect narrative vessel to protest the cruelty of genocide, given its inner voice is mature beyond its years. By comparison, the WWII novella Wierook en tranen by Ward Ruyslinck suffers from the language skills of an 10 - year old who cannot articulate death or rape.

There is no room for the reasons behind the violence, no Pol Pot cameo from afar. Only the opening scene in the capital, where government soldiers stealthily try to change out of uniform to avoi
Aug 31, 2014 rated it really liked it
In the shadow of the banyan tells a tragic story of Cambodian royal family members under Khmer Rouge regime. It's told from the perspective of 7 year old Rami, daughter of Cambodian prince Ayuravan Sisowath. Vaddey Ratner, the author, is the only child of Cambodian prince of the same name that survived Khmer Rouge imprisoment. To give the voice of the one that were lost during one of the most radical and savage social experiments in the world, she decided to do it through fiction instead of memo ...more
Elyse  Walters
Aug 03, 2012 rated it really liked it
At the heart of this story its...
Genocide committed by the Khmer Rouge between the years 1975-1979 ....through the eyes of a child!

The book had a spiritual feeling to it--(credit goes to the author by sharing the child's powerful connection she felt for her dad). The dad's words lived as a part of the child's soul.

Another book to read ---(another time: another war), that I'd also recommend, "The Sandcastle Girls" (Alappo, Syria 1915) -- Its a page turning historical novel.

Nov 24, 2016 rated it it was amazing
4.5 stars. Soooo good. My only complaints are that the writing was a bit too flowery for me at points, especially at the beginning, and the narrators voice was far more mature than any 7 year old I've ever met, but the story was absolutely beautiful.
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Vaddey Ratner, a survivor of the Khmer Rouge genocide and war refugee, is a Cambodian American novelist. She is the author of two critically-acclaimed novels. Her debut autobiographical New York Times bestseller, In the Shadow of the Banyan, was a finalist for both the 2013 PEN/Hemingway Award and the 2013 Indies Choice Book of the Year and was selected for the National Endowment for the Arts Big ...more

Articles featuring this book

When the Khmer Rouge took control of Cambodia in 1975, Ratner was only a child. She fictionalizes her story of survival in her debut novel, In the...
38 likes · 26 comments
“words, you see," he said, looking at me again, "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.” 24 likes
“We are all echoes of one another, Raami” 22 likes
More quotes…