Reviews provided by Syndetics
Library Journal Review
Ratner's debut is a reflective work based on the author's own experiences as a survivor of the Cambodian genocide under the rule of the Khmer Rouge during the late 1970s. Told through the eyes of seven-year-old Raami, the older daughter of Cambodian royalty and big sister to younger sibling Radana, the novel recounts life for the family members as they quickly turn from joyously anticipating the celebration of the Cambodian New Year to fretting over the unknown, when the revolutionary soldiers invade their residence and they are held under the orders of the Organization. What follows is an emotionally moving story of a young girl's experiences with loss, beginning with her milk mother, father, younger sister, uncle, and additional family members. This tale of physical and emotional adversity grips readers without delving into the graphic nature of the violence that occurred at the time. -VERDICT Ratner's contemplative treatment of her protagonist and the love shared among the family stands in stark contrast to the severe reality they faced each day to survive. Knowing that the story was culled from Ratner's experiences as a child brings a sense of immediacy to this heartrending novel likely to be appreciated by many readers. [See Prepub Alert, 2/27/12.]-Shirley N. Quan, Orange Cty. P.L., Santa Ana, CA (c) Copyright 2012. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Publishers Weekly Review
The struggle for survival is relayed with elegance and humility in Ratner's autobiographical debut novel set in Khmer Rouge-era Cambodia. Raami is seven when civil war erupts, and she and her family are forced to leave Phnom Penh for the countryside. As minor royalty, they're in danger; the Khmer Rouge is systematically cleansing the country of wealthy and educated people. Escaping their Phnom Penh home aboard a rusty military vehicle, a gold necklace is traded for rice, and literacy can mean death; "They say anyone with glasses reads too much... the sign of an intellectual." Amid hunger, the loss of much of her family, and labor camp toil, Raami clings to the beauty that her father has shown her in traditional mythology and his own poetry. Raami's story closely follows that of Ratner's own: a child when the Khmer Rouge took over in 1975, she endured years under their rule until she and her mother escaped to the United States in 1981. This stunning memorial expresses not just the terrors of the Khmer Rouge but also the beauty of what was lost. A hauntingly powerful novel imbued with the richness of old Cambodian lore, the devastation of monumental loss, and the spirit of survival. Agent: Emma Sweeney. (Aug.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
Ratner's first novel recounts the harrowing experiences of Raami, the seven-year-old daughter of a prince, during the rise of the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia and her family's capture and internment in work camps. What makes her novel especially remarkable is that it's based on Ratner's real experiences as a young girl of the Cambodian aristocracy under the Khmer Rouge. Her heartrending, mournful tale depicts the horrors of the killing fields and the senselessness of the violence there while still managing to capture small, beautiful moments. Raami is an imaginative girl, captivated by her father's poetry, and it is through his words that she comes to understand the way stories become not only a vehicle for memory but also a source of power. By countering the stark reality of her experience with lyrical descriptions of the natural beauty of the country and its people, Ratner has crafted an elegiac tribute of the country she knew and loved. A note from and interview with Ratner further details her childhood in Cambodia and escape to the U.S.--Hunter, Sarah Copyright 2010 Booklist
Kirkus Book Review
Ratner's avowedly autobiographical first novel describes her family's travails during the genocide carried out by the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia in the late 1970s. Despite the lingering effects of childhood polio, 7-year-old Raami is living a charmed existence. Her father is a minor royal prince and a sensitive, even saintly, poet, a member of the wealthy intelligentsia. Raami and her baby sister, Radana, are cared for by their beautiful young mother and a household of kindly, devoted servants in an atmosphere of privilege and also spiritual grace. Then comes the government overthrow. At first Raami's father is hopeful that the new leaders will solve the injustice, but soon the new government's true nature reveals itself. Like most of the city's residents, Raami's extended family, including aunts, uncle, cousins and grandmother, are soon ordered out of Phnom Penh. They seek refuge at their weekend house but are driven from there as well. Part of the mass exodus, they try not to draw attention to their royal background, but Raami's father is recognized and taken away, never to be seen again. Raami, her mother and Radana end up in a rural community staying in the primitive shack of a kindly, childless couple. There is little food and the work is backbreaking. During monsoon season, Radana perishes from malaria, and Raami blames herself because she did not protect her adequately from the mosquitoes. Raami and her mother are ordered to another community. For four years, one terrible event follows another, with small moments of hope followed by cruelty and despair. But her mother never stops protecting Raami, and although both grieve deeply for their lost loved ones, both find untapped stores of resilience. While names are changed (though not Ratner's father's name, which she keeps to honor his memory) and events are conflated, an author's note clarifies how little Ratner's novel has strayed from her actual memory of events. Often lyrical, sometimes a bit ponderous: a painful, personal record of Cambodia's holocaust.]] Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.