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In the Shadow of the Banyan
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About the Author

Vaddey Ratner is a survivor of the Khmer Rouge regime in Cambodia. Her critically acclaimed bestselling debut novel, In the Shadow of the Banyan, was a Finalist for the PEN/Hemingway Award and has been translated into seventeen languages. She is a summa cum laude graduate of Cornell University, where she specialized in Southeast Asian history and literature. Her most recent novel is Music of the Ghosts.

Reviews

Ratner's debut is a reflective work based on the author's own experiences as a survivor of the Cambodian genocide under the rule of the Khmer Rouge during the late 1970s. Told through the eyes of seven-year-old Raami, the older daughter of Cambodian royalty and big sister to younger sibling Radana, the novel recounts life for the family members as they quickly turn from joyously anticipating the celebration of the Cambodian New Year to fretting over the unknown, when the revolutionary soldiers invade their residence and they are held under the orders of the Organization. What follows is an emotionally moving story of a young girl's experiences with loss, beginning with her milk mother, father, younger sister, uncle, and additional family members. This tale of physical and emotional adversity grips readers without delving into the graphic nature of the violence that occurred at the time. -VERDICT Ratner's contemplative treatment of her protagonist and the love shared among the family stands in stark contrast to the severe reality they faced each day to survive. Knowing that the story was culled from Ratner's experiences as a child brings a sense of immediacy to this heartrending novel likely to be appreciated by many readers. [See Prepub Alert, 2/27/12.]-Shirley N. Quan, Orange Cty. P.L., Santa Ana, CA (c) Copyright 2012. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

The struggle for survival is relayed with elegance and humility in Ratner's autobiographical debut novel set in Khmer Rouge-era Cambodia. Raami is seven when civil war erupts, and she and her family are forced to leave Phnom Penh for the countryside. As minor royalty, they're in danger; the Khmer Rouge is systematically cleansing the country of wealthy and educated people. Escaping their Phnom Penh home aboard a rusty military vehicle, a gold necklace is traded for rice, and literacy can mean death; "They say anyone with glasses reads too much... the sign of an intellectual." Amid hunger, the loss of much of her family, and labor camp toil, Raami clings to the beauty that her father has shown her in traditional mythology and his own poetry. Raami's story closely follows that of Ratner's own: a child when the Khmer Rouge took over in 1975, she endured years under their rule until she and her mother escaped to the United States in 1981. This stunning memorial expresses not just the terrors of the Khmer Rouge but also the beauty of what was lost. A hauntingly powerful novel imbued with the richness of old Cambodian lore, the devastation of monumental loss, and the spirit of survival. Agent: Emma Sweeney. (Aug.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

"A tale of perseverance, hope and the drive toward life."
"For all the atrocities witnessed and hardships experienced, Ratner's story is filled to an even larger extent with opportunism and beauty. Ratner's gift is her exquisite descriptions of the careful details of daily life . . . Ratner describes her desire to memorialize the loved ones she lost with an enduring work of art. She has done just that; hers is a beautiful tale with considerable poetry and restraint. "In the Shadow of the Banyan "is an important novel, written by a survivor with unexpected grace and eloquence."
"Gorgeous . . . Ratner bears witness to the unyielding human spirit."
"How is it that so much of this bleak novel is full of beauty, even joy? . . . What is remarkable, and honorable, here is the absence of anger, and the capacity--seemingly infinite--for empathy."
"Humanity . . . shines through in her storytelling."
"Lyrical . . . a love story to her homeland and an unflinching account of innocents caught in the crossfire of fanaticism."
"Lyrical . . . It's Raami's mother who will stay in your heart . . . Somehow she retains the will to survive and the strength to help others, fiercely telling her daughter, 'Remember who you are.'"
"The horrors committed by Cambodia's Khmer Rouge, as experienced by one extremely resilient girl. A brutal novel, lyrically told."
"The powerful story of how even the most brutal regime lacked the power of a father's love for his daughter."
"Unputdownable."

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