If you are a reader of this blog, you know that I will occasionally write about non-food books I love here. I have written about or to Ania Ciedzello, Yasmina Khadra, Paula Wolfert, Alice Steinbach and many others. Today, I have a very special post about Vaddey Ratner. Ratner is the extraordinary writer who penned In the Shadow of the Banyan. It is one of the most gut-wrenching yet breathtakingly beautiful books I have ever read.. and I read a LOT.
The book, written as a novel but reads like a memoir, is about a little girl who survives the genocide in Cambodia that killed over a million people in the early 70′s. To be honest, I was avoiding reading this book at first. I had read the reviews about how the author had depicted some of the atrocities that were committed and I was hesitant. I regret that decision to wait. When I finally picked up the book, I could not stop reading. It took me fourteen hours to read it. I started at 8:00 p.m. one night and read through the whole night. It never occurred to me that I needed to sleep. Yes, the book is that amazing. The book is told, very lyrically, from the point of view of a young girl and paints pictures of an amazing land that I knew little to nothing about. From the tales of angels to the depiction of temples to the horrors that the country has endured, the author has captured everything in such magnificent detail that you wonder if she isnt a magician with words. I have rarely encountered such glorious talent in writing.
*** To buy the book: here ****
As a reader, I was captivated. There are descriptions in the book that one might be tempted to rush through to see what happens next, but don’t make that mistake. Each word is placed with such care. Each line with such grace. Each paragraph holds so much meaning. I read every single word, sometimes going back to pages and reading again.
As a writer, I just don’t know where to begin. Her control over the language is phenomenal. The details in the book stunned me. Her power of observation is a writer humbled me. I learned more from this book than from the multiple books I have read on writing. It was during my second read through that I found myself taking copious notes on how to write. Thank you, Vaddey.
The story is painful but full of hope. The tale mirrors the author’s own life which makes it even more compelling. This book will leave you feeling full of hope that there are people in this world like Ratner and her father who make a difference.
I met Vaddey Ratner at a book event and was stuck by how graceful and humble she is in real life. Full of kind energy and generosity like I have never seen, she quickly won my heart just as her book had won my spirit.
If you read this and think that I am in awe of her, you are 100% correct. Read the book and you will be as well.
I just picked the top few accolades of her website:
- 2013 PEN/Hemingway Award Finalist
- New York Times Bestseller
- New York Times Book Review Editor’s Choice
- Kirkus Best Fiction of 2012 Selection
- Christian Science Monitor 10 Best Fiction Books of 2012
- Indie Next List Pick and Indie Bestseller
- People Magazine People’s Pick
- Columbus Dispatch Best Books of 2012 Selection
- Goodreads Choice Awards 2012 Fiction Nominee
- Newsweek / Daily Beast Hot Reads Selection
- O, The Oprah Magazine Summer Reading List Selection
- Parade Magazine Parade Pick