Friday, March 15, 2013

In the Shadow of the Banyan by Vaddey Ratner

In the Shadow of the Banyan by Vaddey Ratner

Seven year old Raami lives in luxury in the capital of Cambodia. She comes from royal lineage, has a nanny, and loves the flowers that the caretaker plants. Her world is torn apart when revolutionary soldiers of Khmer Rouge force everyone out of the capital. Raami's family moves to their summer home but soon get forced out of that as well. Their next home is a school, where they stay in a classroom. When soldiers enter the school and demand that Raami tell them who her father is, being only 7, Raami answers honestly. The soldiers are looking for highly educated, wealthy individuals, which almost guarantees the death of her father. The family is moved from place to place. They are broken up and brought back together. They meet many terrible people but there also a few warm-hearted people that help them stay alive. This is a heart wrenching story of a family getting torn apart during a war.

This novel is the first for author Vaddey Ratner but it reads like she's a seasoned writer. The writing is absolutely beautiful, but not in a way that only English Majors could understand. For me it was never hard to read.

The emotions described within this book are so raw and real. Ratner describes at the end of the book that the story is very close to her own. It's really amazing how much Raami understands and grows over the two years this book takes place. At the same time, Raami doesn't understand some things that the reader does which adds further to this novel.

Really, I don't think I can praise this novel enough. It's definitely my best read of the year so far and I imagine it will still be very high on the list by the time the year is done.

First Line: "War entered my childhood world not with the blasts of rockets and bombs but with my father's footsteps as he walked through the hallway, passing my bedroom towards his."


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