I am one chapter into Vaddey Ratner’s beautiful and heartwrenching debut In the Shadow of the Banyan. Although the story is fiction, many elements are true and mirror the author’s life experience as a child in Cambodia. Ratner was five years old when the Khmer Rouge came to power in 1975. She and her mother arrived in the United States in 1981 as refugees. The little girl who did not know English went on to graduate summa cum laude from Cornell University.
Here’s what Chris Cleave, author of Little Bee and Gold had to say about In the Shadow of the Banyan:
“[It’s] one of the most extraordinary acts of storytelling I have ever encountered. There are some moments in this story that are among the most powerful in literature. This is a masterpiece that takes us to the highs and lows of what human beings can do in this life, and it leaves us, correspondingly, both humbled and ennobled.”
That’s quite an endorsement, but Ratner’s novel is quite a story.