Reader reviews and comments on In the Shadow of the Banyan, plus links to write your own review.

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In the Shadow of the Banyan

A Novel

by Vaddey Ratner

In the Shadow of the Banyan by Vaddey Ratner X
In the Shadow of the Banyan by Vaddey Ratner
  • Critics' Opinion:

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  • First Published:
    Jul 2012, 336 pages
    Jun 2013, 320 pages


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Book Reviewed by:
Poornima Apte
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There are currently 9 reader reviews for In the Shadow of the Banyan
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Fictional Memoir
With a poetic voice, Ratner plunges us into this personal trial of a royal family wrenched from their home in Phnon Penh, Cambodia, during the late seventies; a time of revolution. Robbed of her childhood, the narrator, seven year old Raami, brings us on this horrific displacement as she and her family endure homelessness, hunger, hard labor and the death of loved ones in the 4 years the story depicts.

Though Raami's story which parallels with Ratner's own could easily leave my heart weighted down with sorrow, the beauty of Ratner's writing and the brilliancy of the human spirit manages to leave me with hope.

In the end what struck me most about In the Shadow of the Banyan was that the imagery of this fictional memoir mirrors a truth that is far worse. In the Shadow of the Banyan is a moving debut and a must read.
Nancy Craig

In the Shadow of the Banyon
First time novelist Vaddey Ratner captured my heart and senses in this novel based on her childhood in Cambodia. Her story transcends any news story you might read on the Khmer Rouge atrocities and events of the time. Told through the voice of seven year old Raami; we leave the splendor of a royal life in Phnom Penh to the brutal life of the camps of rural Cambodia. The systematic destruction of family units was carried out while starvation and death was a constant. In the depths of starvation, Raami lives on bugs, leaves and the meager rations in the camp. Her line, "Sad was too small a word" describe so perfectly the time she lived through. How does this novelist tell a story of such horror and yet, just as the moon was there for Raami, present that sliver of hope for the reader? This is an unforgettable novel of the love of a family and the rebirth of a little girl and her mother to a new life.

Marvelous book
From the first page, I was drawn in by the lyrical writing of the author and mesmerized as the narrator, eight year old Raami, remembered the years when the Khmer Rouge destroyed individuals, towns and villages, and a whole country. The cruelties of the Organization, as the revolutionary soldiers were known, were constant, unpredictable and ultimately purposeless. Seeing the impact on one child, one family, was an emotional experience that I will never forget. This was one of the very best books I have had the good fortune to read this year.
Power Reviewer

A Soulful, Special Book
I loved this book! It is a unique story and truly written from the heart.I have recommended it to several people of various ages and is one of those books that I hate to loan out because I liked it so much that I'd like to have it on hand for house guests to read. I could picture the characters, feel the fear and misery that they endured, and finished the book with a new perspective on the whole "Vietnam War" era (or the "American War" as it is called in Vietnam). I think this should be added to school reading lists.
Toby S.

poetic and lyrical book about a brutal Cambodian holocaust
Vaddey Rattner has written in lovely, poetic prose and poetry an autobiographical novel of her brutally painful childhood during the Khmer Rouge Cambodian Holocaust. I admired this book. It must not have been easy to write about such suffering in forced labor camps and the loss of her family members and millions of other human lives. The story begins with a lyrical portrait of her life before the Khmer Rouge started its insane path of attempting to "socialize" Cambodia and its horrendous purge of both suspected intellectuals and formerly well-off citizens. Starvation, Murder, Suffering are the themes throughout the second half of the book and I found myself horrified by the tragedy.
Emily G.

The best book I read in 2012!

This is one of those rare books that is so real, the characters so alive and personal, that I want to stop reading because it is so painful. It is one of those books so beautifully written, so exquisitely wrought that I can't possibly stop reading.

This is a book I want to press into everyone's hands and say, Read this book!
Erica M

Superb book
As I read this book, I thought of the questions I would ask if I were reading it for my book club - such as how being under the Banyan Tree is a metaphor for the protection of one's family. or how do repressive governments think they are improving the lot of the people they are governing? The book is written with such sensitivity, such love of family, such horror of repression, it was hard to put it down. Hope my book club DOES select it, so I have an excuse to read it again.
Power Reviewer
Louise J

Exemplary Writing!
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.
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Beyond the Book:
  A Look at the Khmer Rouge

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