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In the Shadow of the Banyan by Vaddey Ratner book review


In the Shadow of the Banyan by Vaddey Ratner book

In the Shadow of the Banyan by Vaddey Ratner book review 

In the Shadow of the Banyan by Vaddey Ratner, this is a book that I feel like I saw a lot of people reading a while back, like legitimately four-ish years maybe more back, and really, really enjoying. 

And I remember coming across this at a used bookstore and being like, "oh, everyone really loved this book. I should pick it up." Picked it up, it sat on my shelves for a really long time. 

But now that I'm at home significantly more I decided I'm going to try to try to tackle some of the books that have been sitting on my shelves for a while and this is one of them. 

And I'm glad that I did because this is a really great book. So this is a historical fiction book set in Cambodia during the 1970s during the Khmer Rouge, I believe that's how you say it, uprising or like the civil war that happened in Cambodia during that time period. 

You are following this little girl named Raami who at the beginning of the story is around seven years old. She is part of the royal family that is in Cambodia. And her father returns home basically telling their family that there is a civil war erupting in Cambodia's capital where they are located. 

So they have to basically grab their things and run. So this group of rebels or revolutionaries or however you want to describe them are marxist in their ideals. And so they don't believe in things like arts and sort of these class divisions. They're basically going through and trying to force everyone to be basically exactly the same or on the same level, etc. 

Even though that's not really what's happening. And so Raami and her family have to run away to a small village area and hide their identity from other people around them because if it's found out that they are part of the royal family,

obviously the rebels will you know take advantage of that and use that to either hurt them more or possibly kill them, things like that. And so you follow this family for about four years and the really just brutal things that they're forced to go through in the middle of a civil war. 

So one of the really amazing things about this book is that this is like partially inspired by the author's own life. She herself was born in Cambodia and fled the country during the civil war and her family line is from the royal family. 

And like as you're reading the story, I didn't know any of that but there is an author's note that is like at the end of the book that describes her own experiences or like kind of briefly talks about her own experiences. 

And it's really amazing to view this book through that lens, knowing that this has some real implications to it. Like obviously there is an aspect of truth to all of this because this is an actual event that happened. 

But just that extra layer of this is a thing that the author herself actually went through really just adds another layer of both beauty and brutality to everything that happens in here. This is a really beautifully written book. 

I will say that at times it feels a little bit overwritten potentially. But in general I really like fell in love with this story and this family and Raami as a character. 

It's a really brutal book, again, really difficult to read at times but there's also a lot of hope in here in terms of like how to continue on with your life when it feels like everything in your life is being stripped away from you. 

It's a story about family and survival. It's a story about maintaining your identity and remembering like who you are and where you came from. 

But it's also a really great book to read if you are the type of person who enjoys historical fiction that teaches you about things that happened in the world in the past. 

Because the author does a really great job of talking about this war that occurred in Cambodia that I think a lot of people are less aware with or less aware of. 

And the author doesn't get into like all the nitty-gritty of the politics and things like that because again this story is told from a little girl's perspective or a girl who's growing up in the middle of this. 

So you're not really getting like the political ramifications or the things the government did or didn't do or anything along those lines. It's more about the individual level and sort of how these things impacted a significant portion of the population during this time period. 

It's estimated that around like two million people lost their lives over the course of the Civil War. And a lot of it had to do at the brutality of the rebels who are basically trying to stop anyone who had any sort of opposition against them. 

I think this book is kind of like the epitome of like the power of fiction because it really places you in Cambodia during this time period. Like you can see and feel all of the events that are occurring all around them. 

You feel like you're in the country with them. It causes you to really understand, you know, some of the tragedies that happened over these years. 

And the story itself also talks about like the importance of stories and mythology and things like that. 

The main character Raami's father is a poet and he's always like telling Raami these stories and things like that and that helps her through this entire thing and even like helps her connect with other people 

I think that anyone who's a book lover, can really relate to a lot of the ideas and topics that are talked about in here in terms of like stories and the importance of stories and using that to pass along you know information and things like that in a really you know amazing way. 

So yeah, I gave this book a 4 out of 5 stars. I highly recommend it. You might be like, hey, that doesn't sound like a book I would want to read right now, which completely makes sense. 

But again, I do feel like this book is full of so much more hope an stories of like resilience and stuff like that. 

So even though there are parts of it that are really difficult to read, there are parts of it that I found just really, really hopeful and was really encouraging you know in the midst of our world feeling very dark. 

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