The Rent Collector by Camron Wright
(Summary taken from an email from the publicist) "Survival for Ki Lim and Sang Ly is a daily battle at Stung Meanchey, the largest municipal waste dump in all of Cambodia. They make their living scavenging recyclables from the trash. Life would be hard enough without the worry for their chronically ill child, Nisay, and the added expense of medicines that are not working. Just when things seem worst, Sang Ly learns a secret about the ill-tempered rent collector who comes demanding money--a secret that sets in motion a tide that will change the life of everyone it sweeps past. The Rent Collector is a story of hope, of one woman’s journey to save her son and another woman’s chance at redemption. It demonstrates that even in a dump in Cambodia--perhaps especially in a dump in Cambodia--everyone deserves a second chance."
Wow! That about sums it up. Wow. This story is amazing. I was hooked from the first paragraph, and could not put it down. I laughed, cried, got angry, felt so blessed, and fell in love with these characters. Sang Ly may live in a dump, but she is an inspiration to me and those around her. Teachers across the world would give anything for more students like her. Her journey and her drive to learn are simply incredible. Sang Ly's attitude about life at the dump is realistic. Some days she hates it, and some days she feels blessed to be there. I can't even imagine. The love she has for Nisay and Ki Lim brought me to tears several times. I know that love. I feel it in myself. Ki Lim is also an inspiration. The love he has for his family also brought me to tears. When he ran around the city looking for Sang Ly and Nisay at all the different hospitals it made me cry. He sticks by Sang Ly, even through all her crazy investigative work and dreams, and supports her always, even though sometimes he may want to roll his eyes and walk away. Sopeap Sin is an amazingly complex woman. She evokes many different emotions in this book. At times I hated her and her gruff ways, and others times her kindness and selflessness humbled me. Thinking of Lucky, a mere child, living by himself at the dump, made me sick to my stomach. How sad. The mother in me just wanted to bring him home with me and take care of him. As you can tell, the characters in this book are so well done. They became my friends, my neighbors, and an inspiration to me. If they can have a positive attitude and a grateful heart while living in a tiny shack in a dump, then I should never have reason to complain. I live in a beautiful home in a beautiful area, I have a fabulous husband and four incredible children. We have doctors and grocery stores, hospitals and pharmacies nearby. I have food to eat and to give to my family. My husband has a good job and I am able to stay at home with my children. We have wonderful families and great neighbors. I am truly blessed.
I thought the story was amazing. It is a novel, but to find out that Sang Ly, Ki Lim, Nisay, Lucky, and the Healer are all real people brought tears to my eyes. There are pictures at the end showing these people actually living like the characters in the story. I know there is a lot made up, but to know it is based on these real people somehow made it all the better. The writing draws you in and holds you captive, and the lessons this book teaches are priceless. It did jump around quite a bit, but it wasn't too hard to figure out. I loved this book and highly recommend it! There is a little bit of language in this book and some violence. There are beatings and other gang violence, and there is a girl the gangs want to sell into prostitution. Thankfully, that doesn't happen. They live in a harsh environment, so there are a few instances that are hard to read about, but they are some of the moments that the characters grow the most from. This is definitely one of my new favorite books.
Rating: PG-13 (Some language, gang violence, beatings, living in a harsh environment)
Recommendation: 12-13 and up. I've been debating since I finished if I'll let my 12 year-old read it. I think it is okay for him to read, but I don't know if the lessons will be lost on him. And that is a huge part of the story. I'll let you know.
Disclosure: I did receive a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.