I was a little late to the game on this one. In the Shadow of the Banyan, by Vaddey Ratner, was an international best-seller back in 2012. I found it amongst the books left behind by the previous owners of our home and recalled hearing it was excellent. Excellent is an understatement. This book twisted my stomach in knots, hurt my heart, and helped me to better understand a dark moment in history that I had previously known little about. The author begins her novel on the first day that the Khmer Rouge invaded the Cambodian city of Phnom Penh, thus beginning their maniacal 3 year reign. The genocide that happened there in the late 70s was sickening. This is a novel but it reads like a memoir as it’s written by a woman who lost most of her family and survived brutal atrocities at the hands of the Khmer Rouge when she was just 7 years old. She is a poetic writer and vividly described the beauty of her homeland before the Khmer Rouge took over, and the stark contrast of what remained after years of destruction and devastation. This is not a light read but it is well worth digging into when you are looking for a book that delivers a poignant message about clawing your way back from the hardest of what humans can endure.