In the Shadow of the Banyan by Vaddey Ratner

Have you ever read a book that, at first, was sooo slow that you wanted to put it down and not pick it back up? And then when it picked up, you felt extremely bad for that feeling?

While reading In the Shadow of the Banyan by Vaddey Ratner, my thought followed a similar course. I didn’t enjoy the first couple chapters at all. However, once the first couple chapters were through the book picked up pace somewhat.

The book was a touching, heart wrenching story of a young Cambodian princess who has her innocence torn from her during the Cambodian genocide. Picking up after a few chapters, the book made me cry more than once, with heart-wrenching sadness. To understand that this is the story of many young girls during this time in history makes it even more tragic. This is a great read to bring light to an event in history that is rarely talked about. I promise it will touch your heart.

I wasn’t very fond of the use of so much folklore and myth without background, and I felt that some of the musings of the main character were somewhat too “adult” for a young girl that was only 7.

However, once I got to the end, I realized that this was actually a memoir, told through the eyes of a girl who was slightly older than the author actually was. For that reason, I think, there was so much language and folklore that I didn’t understand. Also, some of the thought processes of Raami, the young girl, are more representative of what the author remembered she thought, during those traumatic years.


Understanding that made me appreciate the book a lot more. Even before I knew that the  book was a fictionalized account of her memories, there were many points that had me sobbing. In particular, when Raami’s father tells her goodbye, I had to put the book away because I was overwhelmed. I can not imagine the strength he had to have, and Vaddey Rather to write about, to leave his child that he had such a strong, visible bond with.

It really brought a light to the injustices suffered by the Cambodian peoples during this time period. If you are looking for a little bit heavier of a read, an emotional, heartfelt coming of age story, this is the book for you!


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