Books take you to many magical and wonderfully-scenic, memorable places.
Not this book.
Author Camron Wright takes you to a stinking landfill named Stung Meanchey in Cambodia where people LIVE and WORK to survive. It’s memorable and scenic, but for all the wrong reasons.
Ki Lim and Sang Ly live in a city waste dump with their sick young son, Nisay. They earn money by scavenging all day, selling whatever scrap metal they collect in order to pay rent money to Sopeap, the Rent Collector. Anything leftover is for food and medicine for Nisay.
Their home is a glorified teepee surrounded by a permanent smoky haze from the smoldering trash heap surrounding them and a stench that never disappears. One day while picking through trash, they come across a strange object (a book) and bring it home simply because the pictures inside are beautiful and colorful. Sang Ly and Ki Lim decide it’s worth keeping the book for their son to enjoy even though they can’t read.
The plot gets interesting when grumpy Sopeap, also known as “The Cow”, shows up demanding the rent money.
What I liked about this book:
- Camron’s Wright’s inspiration for this 2012 novel came from his son’s documentary about Stung Meanchey, River of Victory. Click here to watch 5-minute trailer.
- Ki Lim and Sang Ly’s determination to persevere despite hideous conditions & circumstances
- just a few main characters to keep up with
- references to literature (Moby Dick and Aesop’s fables)
- my friends on Daniel Island/Mt Pleasant read it for their February pick and it’s a Universal Book Truth that it is fun to read the same book as your friends (see pic below)
“Words provide a voice to our deepest feelings. I tell you, words have started and stopped wars. Words have built and lost fortunes. Words have taken and saved lives. Words have won and lost great kingdoms. “Sopeap, the Rent Collector
Have you read “The Rent Collector”? If you have, I’d love to hear what you thought about it.
What are you reading?