4 out of 4 stars
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“Looking at him then, I saw that my father was no longer the strong, hopeful, courageous, and youthful man who dodged bombs and bullets to rescue my mother and me. It seemed like only yesterday when he carried me on his shoulders as he and my mother walked side by side to find a safe haven. In his middle age years, misery and hopelessness were his frequent companions.”
Excerpt From: Sambath Meas. The Immortal Seeds. iBooks.
The Immortal Seeds by Sambath Meas is a beautiful work of non-fiction that chronicles the life and struggles of a family that is held hostage to extreme misfortune as they find themselves in the heart of a war zone. Sarin and his family is from Cambodia which is drawn into a proxy war between the world’s superpowers after fifteen years of independence. The “Khmer Republic (backed by the United States) and the Khmer Rouge (backed by China, the Soviet Union and Vietnam) fight each other acrimoniously. After five years of battle, the relentless Khmer Rouge soldiers emerge victorious.” However, the war is far from over. Sarin soon realises that the victors of the war are just beginning to inflict upon the people the horrors of communism. Sarin finally decides to escape the country and try to “find freedom, opportunity, and a better life for his family.”
This book is essentially a family memoir that is raw and deeply personal. The novel mixes fact with fiction to create something that is even more real than reality. It is a kind of book that would be loved by enthusiasts of history, politics and memoirs alike. The book takes the reader on a turbulent and emotionally exhilarating journey to confront the reality of war in a part of the world that has so far been ignored.
The book reminded me of Half of a Yellow Sun. Despite a difference of genres between the two books, there are some striking similarities. For example, the way war has been normalised by traumatic experiences is common to the narratives of both books. However, in this book, there is a strange anchor that pulls you towards itself and holds you until the last page. There is an irresistible charm in the writing style of the author that will make the reader read the book in one sitting. I couldn’t find any syntactical errors despite having tried (and perhaps failed at) a nuanced reading of the text.
However, what is the greatest of this book is something that goes beyond “plot”, “characterisation” or “writing style”. It has to do with the connection the author is able to make with the reader. It has to do with the pictures and the map of Cambodia and the hundred other things that help the author humanise the plight of the Cambodian people in one particular time in history. This is a kind of connection that is rarely established between an author and the reader. Talking about war with the kind of raw honesty that is characteristic of this particular author makes the reader want to be a part of her world, to understand her voice, and the voice of the countless lives that could’ve been saved if people had been listening before.
Overall, I rate this book 4 out of 4 stars. I wish there was a higher rating because this book certainly deserves it. I would urge all readers above eighteen to read this book.
The Immortal Seeds
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