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The Rent Collector

4.24  ·  Rating details ·  37,498 ratings  ·  5,458 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.…moreIt's fiction, but inspired by the modern day journey of Sang Ly, a real person who lived in the Stungmean Chey dump in Cambodia.(less)

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Average rating 4.24  · 
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 ·  37,498 ratings  ·  5,458 reviews

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Kristy Robertson
Apr 12, 2013 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.
Ahmad Sharabiani
Jun 23, 2020 rated it really liked it
The Rent Collector, Camron Wright

The Rent Collector is the story of a young mother, Sang Ly, struggling to survive by picking through garbage in Cambodia's largest municipal dump.

Under threat of eviction by an embittered old drunk who is charged with collecting rents from the poor of Stung Meanchey, Sang Ly embarks on a desperate journey to save her ailing son from a life of ignorance and poverty.

It’s a tale of discovery and redemption in which she learns that literature, like hope, is found i
Aug 02, 2013 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)
Barbara Deer
Oct 01, 2012 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
Sep 13, 2015 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
Sep 09, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: book-clubs
I remember reading a review of this book and thinking it sounded fascinating. But for some reason, it just fell flat for me. While I could feel sympathy for the characters, I couldn't connect with them. They seemed less than three dimensional.

Sang Ly dreams of learning to read. She believes being able to read will help her family move up from the dump and her son will be able to get healthy. Sopeap, the rent collector of the title, is a drunk. Formerly a university professor, she was the only c
Mar 25, 2016 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
Aug 10, 2012 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
Sep 29, 2013 rated it liked it
2013 F.A.B. Bookclub pick # I.❤️. F.A.B.
Oct 28, 2012 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 (
Jennifer Hughes
Dec 10, 2012 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
Feb 22, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: book-club
4.5 stars rounded up.

This is a fictionalized account of a real family who live on the Stung Meanchey, the largest municipal dump in Cambodia. Sang Ly and her husband Ki Lin are pickers at the dump, scavenging recyclables to sell to earn a meager living for themselves and their chronically ill son, Nisay. They live in a one room cardboard hut with only a tarp for a door. For this they must pay rent to the Rent Collector, a miserable, drunken old woman. At some point Sang Ly learns that the Rent C
May 10, 2020 rated it liked it
3.5 Stars.

This book has me conflicted. On the one hand I loved the message the book was delivering.....A feel good story about the redemptive power of reading. Books and stories connect people. We readers all know that. That message came across loud and clear.
I loved how books and stories were characters in their own right. This book read like a fairy tale(not necessarily a good thing)- much like the Cambodian version of Cinderella which was one of the stories told in the book.

The story revolves
Oct 17, 2017 rated it it was amazing
A beautiful story about love and war and literature and healing. So thought-provoking! Wonderful book club selection!!! Highly recommend this book to all my Goodreads friends!
Apr 05, 2013 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
Sep 30, 2015 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. ...more
Sep 15, 2017 added it
Shelves: listened-to
I almost burst into flames reading this book. And not in a good way.
Never before has a book set me on fire so much so that I stopped people in the grocery store to rant about it. And I'm talking a raging house fire that turns childhood photos to ash, not sweet cozy flames in a winter stone hearth sort of fire.

The GOOD: The story of Sang Ly and the people of Stung Meanchey is a breathtaking example of the power of the human spirit, a microcosm of the suffering/exaltation of life and an acute ex
Erika B. (SOS BOOKS)
Jul 22, 2012 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
Jun 10, 2013 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.

Jan 29, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This beautifully written, poignant, and unforgettable novel is a story of perseverance and hope amidst the squalor and filth of the dump outside of Phnom Penh, Cambodia. With it’s lovable characters and real sense of place, the author, Cameron Wright, shows that kindness and dignity can still be found in the harshest of places. I would give this novel ten stars if I could.
Nov 05, 2012 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 12, 2015 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
Sep 14, 2012 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
Morgan Donor
Jul 29, 2015 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
Diane S ☔
Oct 15, 2012 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
Jan 14, 2013 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 others! ...more
Nov 10, 2013 rated it liked it
The Rent Collector belongs to many genres. The story gives the reader a basic history of Cambodia and life under the dictatorship of Pol Pot. What the reader needs to know is that Cambodia has been a country void of hope and joy for a very long time. When the Khmer Rouge declared victory, the country welcomed the end of civil war, not understanding the cost of peace. Although the book does not mention it, Pol Pot is viewed by many to be the Cambodian equivalent of Hitler. His reign lasted four y ...more
Apr 29, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I thought this book was really interesting. I didn't realize it was based on real people, even though some aspects were fictional. I kept forgetting it was written by a man, as Camron Wright really got into Sang Ly's head and gave her a strong voice. I learned a lot about life in Cambodia, and it was nice to have the pictures available at the end, as well as some background into the inspiration for the story.

The only thing that didn't work for me were the philosophical discussions. They went ov
Aug 14, 2012 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 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
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Camron Wright was born and raised in Salt Lake City, Utah. He has a master’s degree in Writing and Public Relations from Westminster College.

He has owned several successful retail stores in addition to working with his wife in the fashion industry, designing for the McCall Pattern Company in New York.

Camron began writing to get out of attending MBA school at the time, and it proved the better deci

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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.” 37 likes
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