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The Rent Collector

4.23  ·  Rating Details ·  18,601 Ratings  ·  3,403 Reviews
Survival for Ki Lim and Sang Ly is a daily battle at Stung Meanchey, the largest municipal waste dump in all of Cambodia. They make their living scavenging recyclables from the trash. Life would be hard enough without the worry for their chronically ill child, Nisay, and the added expense of medicines that are not working. Just when things seem worst, Sang Ly learns a secr ...more
Hardcover, 304 pages
Published September 2012 by Shadow Mountain (first published August 24th 2012)
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Heather I think I may have seen one mild obscenity. So VERY little.
Camron Wright It's fiction, but inspired by the modern day journey of Sang Ly, a real person who lived in the Stungmean Chey dump in Cambodia.

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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Kristy Robertson
Apr 12, 2013 Kristy Robertson rated it it was ok
I honestly do not know if I will finish this book. The premise is really intriguing, but the voice of the character is so out of place it is distracting. The main character speaks like a sassy,educated, middle-aged soccer mom from suburbia, not a destitute woman who has grown up and lived her life in the dumps of Cambodia. I am a bit mystified by the rave reviews this book has gotten.
Aug 02, 2013 Mary rated it it was ok
The voice/tone of this book was so WRONG. I felt like I was reading the words of an outsider, somebody trying to Americanize what should have been a Cambodian story. The whole experience felt inauthentic.

(view spoiler)
Sep 13, 2015 Snotchocheez rated it really liked it
Each time I'd see this at the library I'd kinda wince a little, after realizing the cover art and photos in the back of this novel are all pictures taken by the author's son from a documentary he filmed. It's like, I just couldn't bring myself to read an author's fictional work that he himself hadn't felt secure enough with his own words not to embellish them with real photos.

My interest, though, in Cambodia, (strengthened a few decades back by the mesmerizing, can't-miss movie The Killing Fie
Mar 25, 2016 Marie rated it it was ok
I really enjoyed the quotes from literature incorporated into the story. I enjoyed the historical piece, learning about the Khmer Rouge revolution and the genocide that occurred. I also appreciated the friendship between Sang Ly and Sopeap. It was interesting to see Sang Ly see the world differently through literature.

However, I did not feel like the representation of the people living at the dump was accurate or believably portrayed. I felt that the tone and manner of the characters was off. Th
Barbara Deer
Oct 01, 2012 Barbara Deer rated it it was amazing
Simply put, this book is a jewel. Another reviewer described it as "cleansing", and I completely agree.

Camron Wright lists Yann Martel's The Life of Pi as one of his favorites (and I like that Wright says he's not smart enough to be a literature snob, heh), and the style is similar, the prose elegant and simple.

The book is fiction, but inspired by Wright's son's time in Cambodia filming a documentary. I am, somewhat to my own dismay, only cursorily familiar with Cambodia and its terrible struggl
Aug 10, 2012 Kathy rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-in-2012
Enter to win a copy on my blog:

Fabulous! Absolutely wonderful. This is one of my favorite reads this year.

I chose The Rent Collector as my pick for my local book group. Every single person who read it loved it. That hasn't happened before at book group. If you are part of a book group this should definitely make your list of books to read. I had 2 copies of this book. One is literally falling apart because it has been read by so many people and the other w
Apr 07, 2013 Casey rated it really liked it
I gave this book four stars not because it was a fun and entertaining read, though it was entertaining; rather, I gave this book four stars because of the lessons on literature Camron Wright taught me using Sopeap Sin and Sang Ly.

I think one of the most apt descriptions of literature is found in chapter eight on page 57, and it says: "To understand literature, you read it with your head, but you interpret it with your heart. The two are forced to work together--and, quite frankly, they often do
Apr 05, 2013 Kerstin rated it it was amazing
"I have been quiet today because fear in my heart has been fighting with frustration in my brain, leaving little energy for my mouth. Halfway through the day, my brain declared itself the winner and started to work out a plan. Grandfather loved luck, but I am tired and can no longer wait around for its arrival." pg. 26

"And then I realize I must be dreaming. I bite my lip -- it hurts. I glance around the room -- it's our home at the dump. surely, if I were dreaming, I'd be living in a place nicer
Jennifer Hughes
Dec 10, 2012 Jennifer Hughes rated it liked it
Shelves: nostrano
2.5 stars
I know most of my friends will disagree with my rating, but I have to give my honest review. And if you have a happy experience reading this book, I am truly glad for you. I thought the book had a lot of great things going for it, but in the end, it didn't win me over.

I think the best parts of the book were the pictures and the factual details of life in a garbage dump. I was simultaneously horrified and entranced by these poor characters' plight. But the further I got into the story, t
Oct 28, 2012 Rachelle rated it it was amazing
When I received this book in the mail, I stared at the cover for several minutes trying to wrap my brain around the truth behind this fictionalized account of Sang Ly's life.
My nine-year-old daughter saw the cover of the book and I explained to her that it was a large dump where people put all of their garbage and that those shacks were houses where people lived. It was very hard for her to comprehend what I was telling her.
Why would they live in the dump?
Why can't they just come and live here (
Jun 10, 2013 LeeAnn rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction
Oh my. At first I did not like this book and almost put it down. Something, however, pushed me on, and I'm glad it did. I just finished this deeply moving, heartfelt book. Did I like the book? Sometimes. Did I like the writing? Sometimes it startled and distracted me. But overall I think the net effect was to make me think--that's what this author does best. He doesn't intend to make us content but to make us think, but maybe that is how we truly LIVE. Truly one of the best books I have read.

Erika B. (SOS BOOKS)
Jul 22, 2012 Erika B. (SOS BOOKS) rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites, inspire-me
4.5/5 stars! Wowza! This book was fabulous! It's poetry! Based on the true story of Ki Lim and Sang Ly who live with their sickly son, Nisay, in a municipal waste dump in Cambodia. Life is a daily struggle as they collect trash to trade for money so they can eat barely enough food and pay rent to their cranky rent collector. The dump is a dangerous place with the danger of gangs, combustible piles of trash, and the big dump trucks who don't care if you get in their way. Sang Ly longs for a bette ...more
Nov 05, 2012 Carrie rated it it was amazing
It is simply AMAZING!!! One of my top favorite books of all time. Considering how many books that I have read in my lifetime, that should convey how much I love this book! This is a gripping story that filled me with gratitude for my many blessings as I began to read of the struggles in Cambodia. Then, as the story progresses I am filled with a sense of wonder at the hope and determination of the women who survive at Stung Meanchey, the largest waste dump in all of Cambodia. This story tells of ...more
Sep 14, 2012 Emily rated it it was amazing
Loved...LOVED this book. One of my all-time favorites for sure. I loved her characters, and I was shocked to read that her characters are from her son's documentary about this very dump. Even though the author did a great job describing the conditions there, I was still blown over to see the photo's at the end showing just how the people would dig in the trash ~ and to actually SEE the mountains made it "real" for me. It is incredible that even though these people really do live like this, they ...more
Aug 14, 2012 Melanie rated it it was amazing
I've been wanting to read The Rent Collector for a while and was excited that it was our book club choice this month as well. Once I started reading it, it was hard to put down. Sang Ly and her husband, Ki Lim, are just trying to survive day-to-day by collecting enough recyclables to pay for food and rent. Their young son, Nisay, is ill and Sang Ly is frustrated because he's fine while on medicine, but gets sick again when it runs out and they don't have enough money to keep buying medicine for ...more
Aug 29, 2014 Beth rated it it was amazing
I loved this book and recommend it for pretty much anyone who appreciates the power of stories.

This tale of beauty and hope takes place in one of the dirtiest places in the world--a municipal dump in Cambodia where people actually live and scavenge to earn enough to get by. Sang Ly worries about having enough to pay the rent, her family's safety, and her son's unexplained illness. Life changes for Sang Ly and her family when she learns there is more to her mean, drunk rent collector than she th
Jan 14, 2013 Carole rated it it was amazing
I wasn't sure I would be able to enjoy this book based on the fact I knew it was about a family living in a Cambodian dump. After reading the 1st chapter, I googled Stung Meanchey, & it broke my heart to see pictures of people living in those conditions. I was so inspired by this deeply moving novel, and the hope which it brought. It is quite the opposite of depressing, it is a beautiful story of hope, & the gift of literacy. I would give it 4.5 stars, & I will recommend this book to ...more
Sep 30, 2015 Lori rated it it was ok
I would like to read a book about life in Cambodia. A different book. One that doesn't sound American.
Morgan Donor
Jul 29, 2015 Morgan Donor rated it did not like it
I had to read this book as a summer reading assignment for school; and at first, I really did try to make myself like it (I've actually waited to digest this book for a month to see maybe if my feelings towards it would change -- they didn't). Although I didn't find too many issues with Camron Wright's writing itself, I found he is in no position to write a book and voice people of poverty -- particularly women -- as a cis, straight, white, mormon (catholic?), man. He was a literal representatio ...more
Feb 04, 2013 Cynthia rated it liked it
Shelves: great-reads
This book really exceeded my expectations. I'd give it 4 1/2 stars. The book is about Sang Li and her husband Kim Lim who live in a municipal dump in Cambodia together with their young son, Nisay. They scrape together a living by combing the garbage dump for recyclables and other reusable items that other, more well-to-do, people have thrown out. Even amongst such despicable living conditions they still have rent to pay, and thus we meet Sopeap Sin, the rent collector.

This book will make you fee
Stephanie Mason
Jul 07, 2012 Stephanie Mason rated it it was amazing
Struggling to survive, Ki Lim and his wife Sang Ly pick their way through Cambodia's largest municipal garbage dump, looking for recyclable goods that can be sold for cash. Add to the fact that the place is reeking with refuge and human waste, the rains cause rivers of filth to constantly flow through their shack, not to mention the ever present threat of fires as a result of methane gas build up under the piles of trash. It's a terrible place to live, let alone raise a family. But Sang Ly is de ...more
Oct 22, 2012 Beth rated it it was amazing
It was with a bit of hesitation that I picked up The Rent Collector. The summary doesn't exactly inspire life-affirming feelings, but that's exactly what The Rent Collector did for me. It affirmed life and literature and, more than that, the goodness of humanity.

The story centers around Sang Ly and her family, who live at a dump and eke out a living as best they can. Nisay, their baby boy, is often sick and needs medicine that they can never dream of affording. Sang Ly realizes one day that the
Sep 25, 2012 Tonia rated it really liked it

I loved this book. At first I was sick that they lived on a dump. But it was beautiful to hear how she ended up seeing the beauty in all things. I love how the teacher described books and literature. I wanted to say Yes! This is why I love reading books so much. I hated but you can learn from the teachers past about how important education is in society and how we should always fight for our right to learn. I felt as a mother for the little mother to try anything to help her baby. I loved how s
Jun 23, 2017 Leona rated it it was amazing
Powerful and intriguing, this book packs an incredible punch. I highly recommend.
Sep 10, 2012 Cathy rated it it was amazing
Sang Ly lives with her husband Ki Lim and their son Nisay in the most unimaginable place for them to live, Stung Meanchey, a huge dump located in Cambodia. They are lucky to have a nice house to live in. Their house has 3 walls and they use a canvas tarp for the 4th. In order to get money, Sang Ly and Ki Lim must pick through the trash in the dump looking for recyclables to sell. This is a hard life, made harder by the fact that Nisay is a very sick little boy. He has almost constant diarrhea, t ...more
Diane S ☔
Oct 15, 2012 Diane S ☔ rated it liked it
3.5 It is hard to believe that families live on the edge of the largest trash heap in Cambodia, in shacks that have as doors only tarp. They also have to pay rent for this dubious privilege, and are evicted if they cannot. Their job is to collect recyclables or other worthy garbage and exchange this for money. Sang Ly is one such character, living in this situation with her sick son and husband. Her dream is to get her family out of there, to a better house where they can all thrive. She believe ...more
Wendy Jensen
Jan 14, 2017 Wendy Jensen rated it really liked it
Camron Wright is fast becoming one of my favorite authors! Inspiration for this book sparked when Wright came to know the very real Sang Ly and her husband Ki Lim, parents of a very sick child, who are featured in the documentary "River of Victory." Residents of Stung Meanchey (the massive municipal waste dump in Phom Penh, Cambodia) lived in huts created from debris collected from the dump. The residents scavenged for recyclables they could sell to provide for their families.

In this fictionaliz
Sep 12, 2015 Natalie rated it it was ok
This book was a frustrating read for me. I thought the setting of living in a Cambodian dump was an interesting premise, particularly after reading (and loving) the book "Behind the Beautiful Forevers." Unfortunately, this story felt incredibly unrealistic. The protagonist (as has been noted by other readers) definitely sounded like a middle class white woman. The line where she basically said, "I have been told that university students study garbology..." made me roll my eyes. Where would a des ...more
Camron Wright's, book is beautiful, cleansing, and sweet. With a sweetness that is tangible. I love the simplicity and beauty with which he writes!

When you think you might predict the outcome, you swing into a completely different space, unpredictable, and beautiful. It will make you weep. This book will stay with you after your done, as all great books do. I would love to see this book become a national bestseller, like his previous book. Here's a taste.

"I don't mean to be a skeptic, to lack
Natalie Pyles
Feb 09, 2014 Natalie Pyles rated it it was amazing
The Rent Collector is a solid good read. It is very real and yet it feels rich and supernatural at the same time. This book is more than it appears to be. It is meta-literature – literature about literature, very cool. OK, down to business: The Rent Collector is about the people who live in a little place called Stung Meanchey (Stung Men-chay), an actual garbage dump in Cambodia. Not a true story, but it is inspired by real people. This is poverty at its worst, the kind of poverty I didn’t even ...more
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Camron Wright was born and raised in Salt Lake City, Utah. He received a B.S. in Business from Brigham Young University and a master’s degree in Writing & Public Relations from Westminster College.

Camron’s first book, Letters for Emily, was a Readers Choice award winner, as well as a selection of the Doubleday Book Club and the Literary Guild. In addition to North America, Letters for Emily w
More about Camron Wright...

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“Love Forever

If I were the trees ...
I would turn my leaves to gold and scatter them toward the sky so they would circle about your head and fall in piles at your feet...
so you might know wonder.

If I were the mountains ...
I would crumble down and lift you up so you could see all of my secret places, where the rivers flow and the animals run wild ...
so you might know freedom.

If I were the ocean ...
I would raise you onto my gentle waves and carry you across the seas to swim with the whales and the dolphins in the moonlit waters,
so you might know peace.

If I were the stars ...
I would sparkle like never before and fall from the sky as gentle rain,
so that you would always look towards heaven and know that you can reach the stars.

If I were the moon ...
I would scoop you up and sail you through the sky and show you the Earth below in all its wonder and beauty,
so you might know that all the Earth is at your command.

If I were the sun ...
I would warm and glow like never before and light the sky with orange and pink,
so you would gaze upward and always know the glory of heaven.

But I am me ...
and since I am the one who loves you, I will wrap you in my arms and kiss you and love you with all of my heart,
and this I will do until ...
the mountains crumble down ...
and the oceans dry up ...
and the stars fall from the sky ...
and the sun and moon burn out ...

And that is forever.”
“Words provide a voice to our deepest feelings. I tell you, words have started and stopped wars. Words have built and lost fortunes. Words have saved and taken lives. Words have won and lost great kingdoms. Even Buddha said, 'Whatever words we utter should be chosen with care, for people will hear them and be influenced by them for good or ill.” 26 likes
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