Thursday, November 1, 2012

The Rent Collector by Camron Wright

Survival for Ki Lim and Sang Ly is a daily battle at Stung Meanchey, the largest municipal waste dump in all of Cambodia. They make their living scavenging recyclables from the trash. Life would be hard enough without the worry for their chronically ill child, Nisay, and the added expense of medicines that are not working. Just when things seem worst, Sang Ly learns a secret about the bad-tempered rent collector who comes demanding money--a secret that sets in motion a tide that will change the life of everyone it sweeps past. The Rent Collector is a story of hope, of one woman's journey to save her son and another woman's chance at redemption.

First line:
"I once believed that heroes existed only in old men's fables, that evil in the world had triumphed over good, and that love--a true, unselfish, and abiding love--could only be found in a little girl's imagination."

I was a little worried about reading this book just for the fact that I have a hard time reading about, well, hard times. From the cover and blurb I knew I'd be reading about Cambodians living in a dump. Hard times. But the first line, first chapter, first character drew me in and gave me hope.
RENT COLLECTOR is about a Cambodian family who ekes a living going through the city's trash and finding junk they can trade or sell for food. Sang Ly is a mother of a small boy who is constantly sick and she is desperate to get him better. Her husband loves his family and takes care of them the best he can.
There is a woman who collects rent from certain people in the dump. She's ornery, negative and quite often drunk. Many call her Cow.
But when Sang Ly stumbles on part of the Rent Collector's secret, her goal to get her son better expands to giving her son a better life. Sang Ly wants to learn to read and she believes that literacy is the step up he needs.
The story is based on a real family. Their pictures are in the back of the book though I didn't see them until I was finished reading. Mr. Wright does a great job of moving the story along, characterizations and playing on emotions.
This story is about hope and redemption and perspective.
It's full of stories, poems, folk tales and discussions about literature. Life lessons are layered through out and woven with the tales. I found by the end of the book I was no longer turning my nose up at the place the family lived. There is more to life than the place we call home.
I recommend this read to anyone. Book clubs would really enjoy this book. There are questions in the back also.
There is one part of the book that touched me and I wanted to share it with you. Sang Ly takes her family back the village where she grew up to see if the Healer can help her son. While there she talks to her Auntie about how much she loves the village and hates the dump.
Her Auntie replies, "...Remember, the province, though beautiful, has it's own pockets of ugliness. While the dump is ugly, it also has pockets of beauty. I think finding beauty in either place simply depends on where you decide to stand." 
Beauty is where you are, you just need to find it. 

Rating: PG
V: A fight, living in a dump
S: No
L: No

Stories, poems, fables

Stories of the war because they hurt my heart

4 1/2 STARS

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