Published: September 2012
I really enjoyed the quotes from literature incorporated into the story. I enjoyed the historical piece, learning about the Khmer Rouge revolution and the genocide that occurred. I also appreciated the friendship between Sang Ly and Sopeap. It was interesting to see Sang Ly see the world differently through literature.
However, I did not feel like the representation of the people living at the dump was accurate or believably portrayed. I felt that the tone and manner of the characters was off. There was something almost blissful about the way these people viewed their homes and their way of life that did not ring true to me. Here were a group of people living in utter abject poverty on the edge of a garbage heap, making their living picking through trash, barely surviving. They were dealing with gangs, starvation, children being sold into prostitution, and health issues. I did not feel that the author was truly connected to and connecting the reader to the extreme poverty and desperateness of the situation. I felt the storyline was an easy enjoyable read that all came together nicely in the end, however it was all hard to swallow.
I have previously read Katherine Boo’s “Behind the Beautiful Forevers” and felt that she did an amazing job in researching and writing that book. She lived in Mumbai among the poorest of the poor who also worked as trash collectors and documented their stories in her nonfictional account. I would highly recommend skipping this book and reading that book instead to get a more accurate rendition of living and social conditions in a slum.
Map of Cambodia:
Phnom Penh – the city where Sopped grew up as well as where the dump is
Prey Veng Province – Sang Ly’s homeland
Pictures and details about Stung Meanchey, the largest municipal wastedump in Cambodia.
There were several quotes I liked from the book, including the following.
“People only go to the places they have visited in their minds.”
“If we dive into the pool before it’s full, we’ll hit our heads.”
“Literature is a cake with many toys baked inside – and even if you find them all, if you don’t enjoy the path that leads you to them, it will be a hollow accomplishment.”
- How would you describe Sang Ly and Ki’s relationship?
- Do you view Ki as a hero? Why or why not?
- How would you describe Sopeap and Sang Ly’s relationship?
- Why do you think that alternative medicine finally works Nisay?
- What role does luck play in the novel?
- Why do you think Ki is leery of Sang Ly learning to read at first?
- How do you think that Sang Ly’s ability to read will affect their lives?