Gracefully rendered. . . rich with history, language and emotion. A novel that will surely be read and valued by future generations.
— PEN/Hemingway Award Finalist citation
Full of beauty, even joy. . . What is remarkable, and honorable, here is the absence of anger, and the capacity—seemingly infinite—for empathy.
— New York Times Book Review
Poetry in prose. . . a fascinating, moving work that offers a powerful leitmotif of optimism.
— The Independent on Sunday (UK)
As the great human drama unfurls in this sensitive and impassioned telling, it is impossible not to be moved. . . Ratner is a fearless writer.
— The Guardian (UK)

In the Shadow of the Banyan

PEN/Hemingway Award Finalist
New York Times Bestseller
Book of the Year Indies Choice Award Finalist
New York Times Book Review Editor's Choice
Best Fiction Selection by Kirkus, Christian Science Monitor, People, Oprah Magazine, Newsweek, Amazon, IndieList, NPR and more

You are about to read an extraordinary story, a PEN Hemingway Award finalist “rich with history, mythology, folklore, language and emotion.” It will take you to the very depths of despair and show you unspeakable horrors. It will reveal a gorgeously rich culture struggling to survive through a furtive bow, a hidden ankle bracelet, fragments of remembered poetry. It will ensure that the world never forgets the atrocities committed by the Khmer Rouge regime in the Cambodian killing fields between 1975 and 1979, when an estimated two million people lost their lives. It will give you hope, and it will confirm the power of storytelling to lift us up and help us not only survive but transcend suffering, cruelty, and loss.

For seven-year-old Raami, the shattering end of childhood begins with the footsteps of her father returning home in the early dawn hours, bringing details of the civil war that has overwhelmed the streets of Phnom Penh, Cambodia’s capital. Soon the family’s world of carefully guarded royal privilege is swept up in the chaos of revolution and forced exodus. Over the next four years, as the Khmer Rouge attempts to strip the population of every shred of individual identity, Raami clings to the only remaining vestige of her childhood—the mythical legends and poems told to her by her father. In a climate of systematic violence where memory is sickness and justification for execution, Raami fights for her improbable survival. Displaying the author’s extraordinary gift for language, In the Shadow of the Banyan is a brilliantly wrought tale of human resilience.

Transforming Tragedy into Art: Vaddey Ratner discusses In the Shadow of the Banyan

A landmark book . . . The vividness of Ratner’s writing and the richness of her story . . . mark this novel as an extraordinary literary achievement.
— Financial Times
In the Shadow of the Banyan offers a child’s eyewitness account to Cambodia’s genocide, overlaid by the soul of a poet.
— Christian Science Monitor
One of the most extraordinary and beautiful acts of storytelling I have ever encountered . . . utterly heartbreaking and impossibly beautiful. 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.
— Chris Cleave, author of Little Bee
She makes us look unflinchingly at the evil that humankind is capable of, but she gives us a child to hold our hand—an achingly believable child—so that we won’t be overwhelmed. In the Shadow of the Banyan is a truly important literary event.
— Robert Olen Butler, author of A Good Scent from a Strange Mountain