Wednesday, November 27, 2013

The Rent Collector

Did you watch the video above for The Rent Collector? Watch it.  The real pictures will make reading the book that much better.  The Rent Collector by Camron Wright is a fiction book, but it is based on real people that live in Stung Meanchey, a garbage dump in Cambodia.  Since The Rent Collector is a fiction book based on real people I am curious to know if the entire story line is fiction, or if parts of it really happened to the characters.

The Rent Collector- Historical Fiction book review Alohamora alohamoraopenabook.blogspot.comI received this book from my mom this summer, and then my book club decided to read it.  From what I read I was interested in the book, it seemed to be an interesting topic and one I hadn't read anything about.  However, I didn't know how interested I was.  It's always different to read a book b/c you feel you have to whether that is for a book club, b/c someone gave it to you, or for a school assignment rather than b/c you purely wanted to.  With all of that said, I started out  not enjoying the book at all.  There seemed to be a lot of people and places named that I didn't know anything about.  Plus, since the beginning was so wordy I just got lost in it all and a bit confused.  Therefore, I found myself dragging my feet trying to read it; I definitely didn't draw me in and cause me to really turn the pages.  I like to think that the book was mostly at fault for not drawing me in as a reader.  However, I am sure some of that was me and my "reading b/c I have to" rather than want to sub-conscious thoughts.  

I would give The Rent Collector 3.5 out of 5 stars.  That might not seem great, but the end of the book really picked things up and I felt myself truly involved in the story and caring for the characters.  All in all, the subject is sad and fascinating and enlightening.  However, I really didn't enjoy the slow pace in the beginning; it was wordy and just didn't draw me, the reader in.  Had the book stayed like the beginning I am sure I wouldn't have finished it, and it would've received a much lower score.  However, the second half of the book makes pushing through the beginning worth it.  Basically, don't give up... just like some of the characters in the book.  Keep reading, it's all worth it in the end.

The Rent Collector's website had the following book description: 

"The Rent Collector is the story of a young mother, Sang Ly, struggling to survive by picking through garbage in Cambodia's largest municipal dump. Under threat of eviction by an embittered old drunk who is charged with collecting rents from the poor of Stung Meanchey, Sang Ly embarks on a desperate journey to save her ailing son from a life of ignorance and poverty. It’s a tale of discovery and redemption in which she learns that literature, like hope, is found in the most unexpected places.

Though the book is a work of fiction, it was inspired by real people living at Stung Meanchey."

First of all, I can't even imagine what it would be like to live like Sang Ly and Ki do.  I can't even imagine not being able to help your son feel better.  I can't even imagine some of the things they have to go through with the  fear of the gangs and scrounging of trash to make a living.  I really just can't imagine it.  Though, it's a good thing there are pictures in the back of the book to really help the reader get a better appreciation for what this setting is really like.  Reading this book, and finishing it today, the day before Thanksgiving, it makes me incredibly grateful for my home, my healthy children, and the ability I have to shower, go to the grocery store and buy food, and the many things I often take for granted.  I knew there were poor parts in the world.  I've seen some of them in Egypt.  However, I didn't know that there are some places in the world where people actually live on the trash dumps.  Wow!  Talk about gaining a new perspective and an appreciation for the many comforts I enjoy  

In the book, Sang Ly learns to read by Sopeap,  a former literature teacher.  The first word Sang Ly learns to read is samnang which means luck.  I find this fitting since Sang Ly's grandfather mentions luck in her dream at the beginning, and it is a prevalent theme for the entire book.  After reading this book it makes me think that luck has a bigger role in our lives than I intially thought.  Sometimes it really is about being in the right place, saying the right things, and meeting the right people at the right time.  

I appreciated Sopeap's lesson that "literature must be discovered." I feel the exact same way.  That is why I want to light the fire of reading in kids lives.  When a kid/teen/adult really loves to read the literature that will be discovered is absolutely amazing and life changing.  Personally, I didn't have the fire of reading lit until college, but as a librarian and a lover of books I most definitely know that it's never too late.  My goal as a librarian and teacher is to light the fire of reading in other's lifes so that literature can be discovered and enjoyed and change ones life for the better.  

Later in the book Sang Ly goes back home to her province so the Healer can treat her son.  At one point her aunt states in regards to living in the province or at the dump, "I think finding beauty in either place simply depends on where you decide to stand."  I agree.  I have always said there is something wonderful aka beautiful about every place I've lived.  I honestly think there is something great about everywhere; just like the opposite is true as well.  I guess beauty in every place is true even when you live in a dump.  It all depends on where you decide to stand and how you decide to look at it.  

The Rent Collector is a good book.  It's wordy and drags at the beginning, but it picks up pace and makes this unique subject and setting worth your time to read. 

Have you read it?  What are your thoughts?   

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