AKA: Life in the Killing Fields
When Ratner was 5 her life as she knew it ended. The Khmer Rouge (communists) descended to destroy Cambodia. Coming from a royal family meant her family’s lives were in danger more than most. They had to hide who they were and deny their true selves. When the Khmer Rouge first is taking over, the father says, “I could send you out of the country to France.” My heart shouted, “Go, go.” But of course had they left Cambodia there would be no novel. For four long years Ratner and her family lived in work camps and endured forced labour and minimal rations. They saw their family dwindle as members were killed or died. Banyan is not an easy book to read but an important record of a holocaust.
“A shaft of light fell on the front of the house and spilled into the open hallway from the balcony. I imagined it a celestial carpet thrown from the heavens by a careless tevoda—an angel. I ran toward it, my steps unencumbered by the metal brace and shoes I normally wore to correct the limp in my right leg.
Outside, the sun rose through the luxuriant green foliage of the courtyard. It yawned and stretched, like an infant deity poking its long multiple arms through the leaves and branches. It was April, the tail end of the dry season, and it was only a matter of time before the monsoon arrived, bringing with it rains and relief from the heat and humidity. Meanwhile the whole house was hot and stuffy, like the inside of a balloon. I was slick with sweat. Still, New Year was coming and, after all the waiting and wondering, we’d finally have a celebration!”
Another good book about this time is