Friday, August 7, 2020

Camron Wright's novel The Rent Collector: A Favorite Book of the Summer of 2020

 I know I have a good book when, before I'm halfway through it, I'm thinking of people to whom I want to recommend it. I read some books that are quirky enough for me but are not for all sensibilities. During this summer, I have found myself reading more books that usual--and that's saying a lot. One that might not have come into my sights was a book club choice by my friend Barb. Camron Wright's novel The Rent Collector is set in a garbage dump in Cambodia, not exactly the kind of setting one would expect to be an uplifting book. Trust me; it was. 

The protagonist Sang Ly lives with her husband Ki Lim in the Stung Meanchey dump where her husband works as a "picker," going through the daily loads of trash, hunting for items of value that can be resold. Their young son Nisay is chronically sick with diarrhea, a continual source of concern. The story picks up when Ki Lim's finds include a picture book. When Sopeap Sin, the disagreeable woman who collects rent, sees the book, Sang Ly sees her reaction and realizes the woman can read. She bribes her with alcohol to teach her to read and discovers there is so much more to the woman that she could have imagined. For Sang Ly, reading is transformative. 

A story of survival, The Rent Collector is told almost in parables, as Sang Ly discovers the power of literature. The story is so beautifully told as the characters realize the power of books to change lives. Wright also demonstrates what can happen when we realize the layers that make up individuals we encounter. 


1 comment:

Cerrillos Sandy said...

You told me that I'd love this book, and I did. It's an old English teacher's dream. One of my favorite books of the summer . . . actually of all time! Thanks, Cuz!