Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Book Review -- The Rent Collector


The Rent CollectorThe Rent Collector by Camron Wright
My enjoyment rating: 4 of 5 stars
Source:  Received copy from author (I was not compensated in any other way for review).
Genre:  General fiction
Objectionable material:  None

When my house, my closets, my kitchen, becomes cluttered and dirty – I often refer to it as a dump.

Nothing compares to the life of Sang Ly and Ki Lim, for they quite literally live in Stung Meanchey, the largest city garbage dump in Cambodia. Living in homes (shacks? cardboard boxes? sheds?) built from rescued salvage, thousands of families subsist and survive off the trash from the capital Phnom Penh.

Camron Wright has written a remarkable, fictional account of the life of Sang Li, her husband Ki and their son, Nisay. Inspired by his own son’s film work in Cambodia, Mr. Wright envisioned how the lives of this particular family would be, if they had nothing more than one basic need: literacy.

Within that framework, Mr. Wright has crafted a truly wonderful story about the influence one particular neighbor and their “rent collector,” Sopeap Sin, has on their future. A former teacher and educator, Sopeap’s life as a scavenger in Stung Meanchey is far different than what she had as a professor teaching the classics to her students. But due to the political and military evil of the Khmer Rouge, she too has been discarded like the refuse she sorts.

This was a robust novel full of unique and memorable characters. I loved following the arch of how lives were transformed through friends, family, stories, and education, even in the midst of such disgusting conditions.

I was skeptical of this book – the novels I’ve read from this particular publisher have, in my experience, been flimsy, manipulative and, well, poor reading material.

The Rent Collector is none of the above – it was a gem.

Highly recommended for book clubs.