In the Shadow of the Banyan
By Vaddey Ratner
Simon & Schuster, 2012. 322 pgs. Fiction
"In the Shadow of the Banyan" by Vaddey Ratner is the story of 7-year-old Raami. She was born to privilege and wealth as the daughter of a minor Cambodian prince. Within the walls of her home she knew only love and security while outside the gates, a civil war raged. But one day the war came to an end and her entire family was forced, along with millions of others, to leave their home and travel from town to town, fighting for survival. The Khmer Rouge regime spent four years trying to strip the entire populace of their individual identities. Raami's childhood was left behind, but she still clung to the stories, legends and poetry her father had shared with her in those idyllic years before the chaos.
Based on some of the author's actual experiences, this story is filled with tragedy and despair. But it's also a beautiful tribute to the power of love and family. This is a wonderful choice for book clubs because when that last page is turned, you will want to talk to someone about the heartbreaking story and the beautiful writing.