Drawing on her experience with a relief organisation on the Thai border, Ho tells the
story of a Cambodian family, fleeing the rival factions of the 80's while
hoping to gather resources to return to farming in their homeland. Dara,
12, and the remnants of her family have arrived at a refugee camp soon
after her father's summary execution. They are determined not to be separated
again. At first, the camp is a haven: food is plentiful, seed rice is available,
and they form a bond with another family. Brother Sarun falls in love with
Nea, and Dara makes friends with Nea's cousin, Jantu, who contrives marvellous
toys from mud and bits of scrap; made wise by adversity, Jantu understands
that the process of creation outweighs the value of things, and that dead
loved ones may live on in memory. The respite is brief: Vietnamese bombing
disrupts the camp, and the family is temporarily but terrifyingly separated.
Later, Jantu is wounded by friendly fire and doesn't survive; but her tragic
death empowers Dara, who believes in the magic of the clay marble Jantu
made, to confront Sarun, who's caught up in mindless militarism instigated
by a charismatic leader, and persuade him to travel home with the others--to
plant rice and build a family instead of waging war.Minfong Ho skilfully
shapes her story to dramatise political and humanitarian issues. The easily
swayed Sarun lacks dimension, but the girls are more subtly drawn--Dara's
growing courage and assertiveness are especially convincing and admirable.
The true feeling of love and family portrayed is unbelievable. It has it's ways of making you sad, happy, scared, and many other feelings, because of the Asian literary theme it has. This book really made me think about the whole situation and how true it could be. It seems like an invisible force is pushing you into the story. After finishing the book, you get an incredible feeling that you had gone through something BIG in your life but cannot express it out. ! Perhaps it is because this book is very touching and it teaches people to believe in themselves through the very realistic characters.
Twentieth-century Singapore has been the setting for many works of fiction by international authors, such as Patrick Anderson, who used his stint as a lecturer at the university to gather material. Singapore's home-grown talents, including Irene Hoe, Philip Jeyaretnam, Catherine Lim, Shirley Lim, Simon Tay, Claire Tham and Rex Shelley, are enriched by the city's many vibrant cultures. While we feature prose in English here, Chinese, Malay and Tamil writers of fiction, drama and non-fiction are all essential to the burgeoning literary scene.