Exquisite use of Language and Imagery
Ratner’s use of language and imagery is exquisite. As I told a friend I found myself reading slowly, dreading what fresh horror would appear on the next page. “In the Shadow of the Banyan” is set during the Khmer Rouge revolution. I’m sure most people are aware that during the mid 70′s these communists took power and subjugated their fellow Cambodians. Raami comes from the royal family who were especially hated by the Communists because their learning and their strong sense of self made them a threat to the thugs. Along with their country people, Raami and her immediate and extended family’s homes were destroyed, they were kidnapped, and then hustled from one place to another, and from one back breaking manual labor task to another. They were all but starved. Some people did die of starvation and over work. They tried to stay together and they tried to survive. Throughout the story the only person you feel confident will survive is Raami, the storyteller, who was based on Ratner’s own experience during the revolution. All other lives are in jeopardy.
Raami’s father, a prince, was a poet and storyteller. He’d raised her on stories. These stories and the way they taught her to view the world helped her endure. She grows up quickly and learns unbelievably hard lessons along with beautiful, life affirming lessons about humanity. Don’t miss the author’s afterward and an interview at the end of the book where she discusses why and how this book came about. Again, not easy to read, but well worth your time.
This review was based on an e-galley provided by the publisher.