Full of beauty, even joy . . . What is remarkable, and honorable, here is the absence of anger, and the capacity—seemingly infinite—for empathy.” —Ligaya Mishan, New York Times Book Review


The humanity . . . shines through . . . in the author's depiction of a pure, unbroken love between daughter and father and in Ms. Ratner's portraits of the human will to survive.” —Howard French, The Wall Street Journal


“As the great human drama unfurls in this sensitive and impassioned telling, it is impossible not to be moved . . . Ratner is a fearless writer.” —Krys Lee, The Guardian (UK)

Poetry in prose . . . a fascinating, moving work that offers a powerful leitmotif of optimism.” —Sholto Byrnes, The Independent on Sunday (UK)

“A landmark book . . . The vividness of Ratner’s writing and the richness of her story . . . mark this novel as an extraordinary literary achievement.”

—Madeleine Thien, The Financial Times (UK)

In the Shadow of the Banyan is one of the most extraordinary and beautiful acts of storytelling I have ever encountered . . . This book pulls off the unsettling feat of being—at the same time—utterly heartbreaking and impossibly beautiful. There are moments in this story that are among the most powerful in literature. 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

Lovely . . . lyrical. . .  a compelling story, and ultimately, an uplifting one.”

—Anne Morris, Dallas Morning News

“The struggle for survival is relayed with elegance and humility in Ratner’s autobiographical debut . . . This stunning memorial expresses not just the terrors of the Khmer Rouge but also the beauty of what was lost. A hauntingly powerful novel imbued with the richness of old Cambodian lore, the devastation of monumental loss, and the spirit of survival.”

Publishers Weekly (starred review)

In the Shadow of the Banyan offers a child’s eyewitness account to Cambodia’s genocide, overlaid by the soul of a poet.”

—Yvonne Zipp, Christian Science Monitor

“Vaddey Ratner’s novel is ravishing in its ability to humanize and personalize the Cambodian genocide of the 1970’s. 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

“In her gorgeous, tormenting first novel . . . Ratner sharpens the harrowing tale with sensual prose that endows natural images with human qualities.”

—John Wilwol, Washingtonian Magazine (feature review)

“She could have written a memoir. But a novel . . . allows Ratner to show us the beauty of her culture and landscape as only a child can see it, bursting with colour and hope . . . Devastating and powerful.”

—Genevieve Fox, Daily Mail (UK)

Unforgettable, beautifully written.”

Barnes and Noble Discover Great New Writers program

Stunning . . . A beautiful, heartbreaking work . . . An eminently readable and deeply engaging story.”

—Judy Wertheimer, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

“A luminous novel. Although she doesn’t shy away from violence, loss and grief, she pays equal attention to small moments of compassion and natural beauty.”

—Margaret Quamme, The Columbus Dispatch

“Ratner’s remarkable debut novel transforms her childhood experiences into the finest of literary fiction . . . A powerful testament to the tenacity of love and family in the face of unspeakable inhumanity.”

—Caitlin Caufield, Indie Next List Great Reads

“Ratner’s lyrical first novel finds love and surprising humanity in a horrifying setting . . . Raami, the book’s 7-year-old heroine is a tenacious dreamer . . . It’s Raami’s mother, though, who will stay in your heart.  Accustomed to silk and servants, she’s stripped of everything—and almost everyone—she loves.  Somehow she retains the will to survive and the strength to help others, fiercely telling her daughter, ‘Remember who you are.’”

—Helen Rogan, People Magazine (People Pick)

“This haunting debut novel is based on the amazing life story of author Vaddey Ratner . . . An uplifting story . . . reminding us of literature’s ability to transcend.”

—Eliza Borné, BookPage

“The horrors committed by Cambodia’s Khmer Rouge, as experienced by one extremely resilient girl. A brutal novel, lyrically told.”

—Karen Holt, O Magazine

“Vaddey Ratner turns a very dark time in her childhood… into lyrical fiction that’s both a love story to her homeland and an unflinching account of innocents caught in the crossfire of fanaticism.”

—Parade Magazine (Parade Pick)

“One of those brave novels of resilience and the power of love that surface once or twice in a generation.”

—Michael Langan, Buffalo News

“By countering the stark and abject reality of her experience with lyrical descriptions of the natural beauty of Cambodia and its people, Ratner has crafted an elegiac tribute to the Cambodia she knew and loved.”


“Captures the beauty and resilience of the human spirit.”

—Yahoo! Shine (Must Reads selection)

“‘A work that at once both deeply wounds and profoundly uplifts. With lyrical and breathtaking prose, Ratner plunges us into the midst of the nightmare that was thrust upon her, and yet, even amidst the darkness of starvation and violence, she never abandons us to despair. She always offers us the glimmering thread of hope and of love. She offers us wings.”

—Naomi Benaron, author of Running the Rift

“A remarkable achievement . . . one of those novels that lead writers like me to believe that real truth is best found in fiction.”

—Patricia Griffith, Washington Independent Review of Books

“At once painful and captivating. The resilience of the human spirit and body, the ability to hope even in the face of extreme hopelessness: that is what carries the reader through this touching masterpiece of a novel.”

Historical Novel Society (Editors’ Choice)

“Heartbreaking . . . the writing is both poetic and serene. Along with unspeakable cruelty and suffering, there is hope and redemption.”

—John Abrahams, Everyday E-Book

“A masterpiece . . . We see a beautiful Cambodia we never knew . . . The writer has knitted her sentiments with poetry, transforming suffering into art.”

—Zhang Qi, Bangkok Post

“An astonishing book, unlike anything else that has emerged from Cambodia and its tragedies. In contrast to other books dealing with the Khmer Rouge period, this is not a memoir—it is literature, and literature of a high order.”

—Philip Short, author of Pol Pot

“A compelling new voice in world literature. Through the coming of age story of a sensitive girl, Ratner dramatizes both the brutalities of the Khmer Rouge and the emotional cost of survival.”

—Bharati Mukherjee, author of Miss New India

“A memoir of a novel, written in blood and dreams. Indeed, it barely feels like a book; you read it in a state of suspended animation, drunk on the beauty of the writing . . . A magnificent book, astonishing on every page, thrilling in its outcome.”

—Jesse Kornbluth, Head Butler

“Ratner’s contemplative treatment of her protagonist and the love shared among the family stands in stark contrast to the severe reality they faced each day to survive. Knowing that the story was culled from Ratner’s experiences as a child brings . . . immediacy to this heartrending novel.”

—Library Journal

“Vividly told . . . a message of hope and [a] reminder of the depth of human spirit. Stories like this reach deep inside us and are, dare I say, life-changing?”

—Carol Fitzgerald, Bookreporter

“A tribute to the human spirit. Beautifully written in poetic language.”

—Chris Stuckenschneider, The Missourian

“An utterly engaging portrait of familial love and sacrifice . . . Profoundly moving, In the Shadow of the Banyan is destined to become a classic.”

—Paula Gallagher, School Library Journal

“Ratner is a graceful writer. Her sentences flow with balletic precision.”

Tzer Island

“A beautifully rendered memorial to the lost, with an authenticity that comes through in the most personal of narratives.”

—Drew Toal, Time Out New York

“Beautiful . . . There is a cord of hope and redemption throughout, and moments of deeply moving tenderness.”

—Erin Collazo Miller, About.com Best Books of 2012

“Almost made me gasp for breath . . . You will know why when you read the book and discover its power . . . As you close the book, you feel a little more hopeful, a little less angry and a little more belief in humanity.”

—Vivek Tejuja, IBN Live (Mumbai)

“A beautiful tale told with considerable poetry and restraint. In the Shadow of the Banyan is an important novel, written by a survivor with unexpected grace and eloquence.”

—Susan Soon He Stanton, Audrey Magazine