A Cambodian immigrant to the United States tells a harrowing tale in this debut memoir that recounts her struggles and religious journey.
Sim grew up during the horrifying period in the 1970s when Pol Pot ruled Cambodia and forced urban inhabitants into the countryside. He starved, beat, tortured, and executed millions of his fellow citizens. The Khmer Rouge murdered the author’s father and forced her mother to abandon Sim in her village and travel far away to work as a virtual agricultural slave laborer. Left entirely to her own devices and compelled by circumstance to care, not just for herself, but for her two younger sisters as well, the author attempted but failed to ward off the demons of starvation. One of her sisters succumbed to hunger and died of malnutrition. “I felt as if I had been forsaken,” Sim writes. “Loneliness became my best friend and we were inseparable.” The author then miraculously encountered a mysterious, faceless woman who aided her and provided her what little comfort she had in this nightmarish world of turmoil, deprivation, and death. Sim’s discovery of Christianity and her ever-growing faith provided her a thin cord of hope to which she clung. Through her tenacity and faith, she came through this ordeal to end up with her family in a refugee camp waiting for resettlement in America. Finally, after many years, the author’s wish came true and she arrived in the United States, only to end up through an arranged marriage wedded to an emotionally abusive man. While this tale of endurance and stamina alone provides a potentially riveting focus for this small book, the exceptional authorial challenges of revealing and conveying with clarity and precision the depths of her struggles prove perhaps beyond Sim’s capacity. In comparing her own experiences with contemporary tornado survivors, the author speculates that they might well wonder what “God had next up his sleeve.” Such tone disjunctions prove at times distracting, and diffuse the power of Sim’s otherwise absorbing life story.
A compelling, if flawed, account of the dire Cambodian genocide and its aftermath, told by a woman who survived this terrible era through her personal fortitude and Christian faith.