Simon & Schuster|August 7, 2012|Hardcover|ISBN: 978-1-4516-5770-8
You are about to read an extraordinary story. It will take you to the very depths of despair and show you unspeakable horrors. It will reveal a gorgeously rich culture struggling to survive through a furtive bow, a hidden ankle bracelet, fragments of remembered poetry. It will ensure that the world never forgets the atrocities committed by the Khmer Rouge regime in Cambodia between 1975 and 1979, when an estimated two million people lost their lives. It will give you hope, and it will confirm the power of storytelling to lift us up and help us not only survive but transcend suffering, cruelty, and loss.
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 overwhelmed the streets of Phnom Penh, Cambodia’s capital. Soon the family’s world of carefully guarded royal privilege is swept up in the chaos of revolution and forced exodus. Raami clings to the only remaining vestige of her childhood – the mythical legends and poems told to her by her father. In a climate of systematic violence where memory is sickness and justification for execution, Raami fights for her improbable survival displaying the author’s extraordinary gift for language. In the Shadow of the Banyan is a brilliantly wrought tale of human resilience.
The utter horror Raami lived through is truly heartbreaking, especially for a young girl of seven. Raami is a strong girl who possesses more strength and courage than I’ve seen in kids twice her age and more.
Raami was only five-years-old when the Khmer Rouge overtook her home in Cambodia between 1975 and 1979. She was immediately thrust into a world of cruelty, poverty, hunger, and starvation. Her beloved father, a royal, was imprisoned and she never saw him again. His book of poetry he had written is what she remembers and it helps keep her moving forward. Raami, her mother, and baby sister were able to stay together while her uncle and cousins were sent to die in labour camps and Raami’s baby sister is stricken with malaria.
This was truly a heart-wrenching story where it has been estimated that the Cambodian genocide was responsible for the deaths of some 1.7 million people, a huge proportionate of the entire population of the entire country.
The story is written in the first person and told through the eyes of Raami. The words are so beautifully written, a real talent for a first time author. An extraordinary story that takes you to the impossible highs and lows of what human beings can do in this life, both on the good side and the bad. This is a story that will reach deep inside your soul and leave you shivering. I would highly recommend this book to anyone and believe it needs to be read for the sake of the people who died and those still living that suffered through this terrible tragedy.