In the Shadow of the Banyan by Vaddey Ratner
A Novel

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The playful innocence that marked the novel's start gives way to furtive, monochrome descriptions...The blasted landscape Ratner describes feels almost like science fiction, like an alien slave colony on some faraway moon. If only that were true.
-NPR

Synopsis

Told from the tender perspective of a young girl who comes of age amid the Cambodian killing fields, this searing first novel—based on the author’s personal story—has been hailed by Little Bee author Chris Cleave as “a masterpiece…utterly heartbreaking and impossibly beautiful.”

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.

     Over the next four years, as she endures the deaths of family members, starvation, and brutal forced labor, Raami clings to the only remaining vestige of 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 testament to the transcendent power of narrative and a brilliantly wrought tale of human resilience.

 

About Vaddey Ratner

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Vaddey Ratner was five years old when the Khmer Rouge came to power in 1975. In 1981 she arrived in the United States as a refugee not knowing English and ultimately went on to graduate summa cum laude from Cornell University. She lives in Potomac, Maryland.
 
Published August 7, 2012 by Simon & Schuster. 337 pages
Genres: History, Literature & Fiction. Fiction
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Critic reviews for In the Shadow of the Banyan
All: 4 | Positive: 3 | Negative: 1

NY Times

Above average
Reviewed by Ligaya Mishan on Aug 10 2012

What is remarkable, and honorable, here is the absence of anger, and the capacity — seemingly infinite — for empathy.

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Guardian

Good
Reviewed by Krys Lee on Sep 28 2012

Ratner is a fearless writer, and the novel explores important themes such as power, the relationship between love and guilt, and class.

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WSJ online

Below average
Reviewed by Howard W French on Aug 26 2012

The novel's fidelity to real life gradually turns out to be a source of weakness..."In the Shadow of the Banyan" feels insufficiently imagined, almost like a diary.

Read Full Review of In the Shadow of the Banyan: ... | See more reviews from WSJ online

NPR

Above average
Reviewed by Drew Toal on Aug 09 2012

The playful innocence that marked the novel's start gives way to furtive, monochrome descriptions...The blasted landscape Ratner describes feels almost like science fiction, like an alien slave colony on some faraway moon. If only that were true.

Read Full Review of In the Shadow of the Banyan: ... | See more reviews from NPR

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