The Road of Lost Innocence: The True Story of a Cambodian Heroine

The Road of Lost Innocence: The True Story of a Cambodian Heroine

4.2 68
by Somaly Mam

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"Born in a village deep in the Cambodian forest, Somaly Mam was sold into sexual slavery by her grandfather when she was twelve years old. For the next decade she was shuttled through the brothels that make up the sprawling sex trade of Southeast Asia. Trapped in this dangerous and desperate world, she suffered the brutality and horrors of human trafficking - rape,…  See more details below


"Born in a village deep in the Cambodian forest, Somaly Mam was sold into sexual slavery by her grandfather when she was twelve years old. For the next decade she was shuttled through the brothels that make up the sprawling sex trade of Southeast Asia. Trapped in this dangerous and desperate world, she suffered the brutality and horrors of human trafficking - rape, torture, deprivation - until she managed to escape with the help of a French aid worker. Emboldened by her newfound freedom, education, and security, Somaly blossomed but remained haunted by the girls in the brothels she left behind." The Road of Lost Innocence recounts the experiences of her early life and tells the story of her awakening as an activist and her harrowing and brave fight against the powerful and corrupt forces that steal the lives of these girls.

Editorial Reviews

Jane Ciabattari
In The Road of Lost Innocence, [Mam] writes of corrupt government officials and police who allow the illegal businesses to thrive. Her account inspires outrage.
—The Washington Post
Publishers Weekly

The horror and violence perpetrated on young girls to feed the sex trade industry in southeast Asia is personalized in this graphic story. Of "mixed race," Khmer and Phnong, Mam is living on her own in the forest in northern Cambodia around 1980 when a 55-year-old stranger claims he will take her to her missing family. "Grandfather" beats and abuses the nine-year-old Mam and sells her virginity to a Chinese merchant to cover a gambling debt. She is subsequently sold into a brothel in Phnom Penh, and the daily suffering and humiliation she endures is almost impossible to imagine or absorb ("I was dead. I had no affection for anyone"). She recounts recalcitrant girls being tortured and killed, and police collusion and government involvement in the sex trade; she manages to break the cycle only when she discovers the advantages of ferengi(foreign) clients and eventually marries a Frenchman. She comes back to Cambodia from France, now unafraid, and with her husband, Pierre; sets up a charity, AFESIP, "action for women in distressing circumstances"; and fearlessly devotes herself to helping prostitutes and exploited children. The statistics are shocking: one in every 40 Cambodian girls (some as young as five) will be sold into sex slavery. Mam brings to the fore the AIDS crisis, the belief that sex with a virgin will cure the disease and the Khmer tradition of women's obedience and servitude. This moving, disturbing tale is not one of redemption but a cry for justice and support for women's plight everywhere. (Sept.)

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Kirkus Reviews
Candid memoir of a woman trapped in the sex-slave trade, who is now an activist against it. "You shouldn't try and discover the past," Mam recalls her adoptive father telling her. "You shouldn't hurt yourself." Born in 1970 or 1971 and torn from her ethnic Phnong family during Cambodia's genocidal civil war, Mam suffered as a child in a Khmer village whose people saw her as "fatherless, black, and ugly," possibly even a cannibal. Her pederast grandfather sold her virginity to a Chinese merchant to whom he owed money, a prize in a culture where raping a virgin was believed to cure AIDS. He then sold her to a soldier who "beat me often, sometimes with the butt of his rifle on my back and sometimes with his hands." From there it was a short path to what Mam calls "ordinary prostitution," working for a madam who was quick to hit and slow to feed. In time, after a series of indignities that she recounts in painful detail, Mam extricated herself to live with a French humanitarian-aid worker. Married, she moved with him to France, where she discovered that "French people could be racist, just like the Khmers." Burdened with an unpleasant mother-in-law, she welcomed the chance to return to Cambodia, working in a Doctors Without Borders clinic and turning her home into a kind of halfway house for abused, drug-addicted and ill prostitutes, most of whom were very young. Mam recounts her battles against government officials, pimps, brothel keepers and other foes in a campaign that brought death threats against her, but that slowly gathered force as it gained funding from UNICEF and several European governments. That campaign is ongoing, and Mam concludes that there's plenty left to do, since Cambodiais "in a state of chaos where the only rule is every man for himself."An urgent, though depressing, document, worthy of a place alongside Ishmael Beah's A Long Way Gone, Rigoberto Menchu's autobiography and other accounts of overcoming Third World hardship. Agent: Susanna Lea/Susanna Lea Associates
From the Publisher
The Road of Lost Innocence is unputdownable, and you read it with a lump in your throat. Somaly Mam’s story is an account of how humanity can sink to the lowest levels of depravity, but it is also a testimony of resistance and hope. She lifted herself out of a well of terror and found the determination and the resilience to save others. Somaly Mam is my candidate for the Nobel Peace Prize.”—Ayaan Hirsi Ali, author of Infidel

“An inspiring story from the front lines of a global tragedy. Somaly Mam’s courageous fight to save women and children reminds us that one person can stand up and change the fate of others for good.”
—Mariane Pearl, author of A Mighty Heart

“A powerful autobiography that I highly recommend.”—New York Times


“Haunting . . . Mam explains trafficking from a girl’s perspective in a fresh, often poetic voice. . . . This is an important book to read.”—Seattle Times

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Product Details

Random House Publishing Group
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
5.80(w) x 8.30(h) x 0.90(d)

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When Officer Carly Edwards finds three young gangbangers shot execution style, she and her husband, Sergeant Nick Anderson, head of the gang unit, fear Las Playas may be on the verge of a gang war. The Las Playas PD is put on high alert as tensions escalate between rival gangs, especially after Carly confiscates weapons from a gang leader and learns they were stolen from a military base along with explosive devices.

But something isn’t adding up, and Carly suspects there might be more going on. As she prepares to testify at a major trial, Carly’s reputation is shredded by a reporter apparently trying to discredit her professionally. Facing pressure on all fronts, Carly must rely on faith and trust God in a deeper way during one of the biggest struggles of her career. Tyndale House Publishers

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The Road of Lost Innocence: The True Story of a Cambodian Heroine 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 68 reviews.
ellin39 More than 1 year ago
This heart wrenching story sends a strong message to the world about the protection of our children across the globe, especially girls. I read it almost three weeks ago, and still I keep going back to it, drawing from the author's personal account inspiration, enlightenment and a desire to act. I am in awe of Somaly's courage and perseverance, and know there are so many others out there who share her story. If you are reading this review, please consider purchasing the book. Proceeds from the book are used to support NGOs that work to prevent and stop human traficking. This is a great book for people of all ages, I highly recommend it.....
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book touched my heart. I was reading a different book at the time, when I picked up this book and after two pages was completely captivated. This was truely a work of art and cannot be explained better than that.
TruStory More than 1 year ago
This is a heart wrenching story to say the least. I often here about the sex slave trade in the media, but this gives an account of a survivor of the experience. While so many of the details are hard to digest, the book is equally as hard to put down. Somaly Mam shares both the horror and devastation she experienced as well as insight into the cultural factors that make this business so lucrative. She inspires hope for those imprisoned in this dark life. I encourage others to step into this dark world to see how one woman's story has brought about change in the lives of so many others.
avid_reader421 More than 1 year ago
I really wish this book was longer and gave more detail, I finished it wanting more for some reason. The story is amazing and it definitely gives one some perspective on life and how lucky we are. Somaly Mam is an inspiration for being as brave as she is and continuing to do what she does by helping women and giving them a chance to break free from the sex trade. It's eye-opening to learn about the conditions that these women have to endure and sad when you realize that what you are reading is a true account.
Novel_Teen_Book_Reviews More than 1 year ago
Review by Jill Williamson

I can¿t stop thinking about this book. First let me caution you, this book is graphic due to the subject matter, but I believe all older girls would benefit from reading it. The Road to Lost Innocence is not a fiction novel. It¿s a memoir, which is a true story of an author¿s life. The Road to Lost Innocence is the story of Somaly Mam, a Cambodian woman who was sold into slavery as a girl and later sold to a brothel. The village world she paints is fascinating. She didn¿t know what a fork was or that running water existed until she grew up. She shares how she managed to get away from her prison and how she went back to try and rescue girls from the life she once lived.

This is a heartbreaking story. I cried more than once. Human trafficking is beyond horrifying to read about, and this book will open your eyes to a bigger world. Girls are stolen or sold everyday, and not only in places like Cambodia or the Philippines. This happens everywhere including Canada and the US. If you are brave enough, this book will hopefully spur you toward action. It does get a bit graphic in parts, and I caution younger girls to ask their parents before reading it. I also urge you all to pray for Somaly Mam, her family, her ministry, and that she might find her creator, the one who loves her more than anything.
csaint More than 1 year ago
In her bio, Somaly Mam, (an activist who works in Cambodia to stop sex trafficking) speaks of her journey in life up to this point and her passions which drive her to help young women and girls who are sold in to prostitution. Once a sex slave herself, this story will pull at your heart in a way you never thought possible. Her story, and the stories of other girls in this book give a look in to the horrible and oppressive world of a sex slave and the difficulties that these young women have while trying to recover their lost childhoods and innocence. This book definitely woke up the sleeping activist in me and incites a will to fight to change the injustices in the world that young women face in countries that are run by mafia-like gangs who run a sex trafficking business that makes in income comparable to the Cambodian government. If you love reading stories of progress and activism, this is a must read!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Having a Cambodian granddaughter, I felt compelled to read this. Very difficult to read without being upset, especially as there is no conclusion. The horror continues. i bought a copy for my daughter and granddaughter to read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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recommend it
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This memoir is so raw it will meke you hurt inside. It is totally worth it though. If nothing else, you will be able to feel as if your purchase, time committed, and awareness help other victims recover and prevent future stories such as this. So many people don't realize that this is still a very real issue that needs to be eradicated.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is a very eye opening story. It might be difficult for many people to start reading this book because it so graphic. Its horrible what happens to these women and girls, but i think its a very impotant book for every one to read. Its important for people to know whats happening to these women and i promise if you get through the book you will be inspired by this story.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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CR2012 More than 1 year ago
I never knew much about Cambodia and this personal story written by Somaly was eye opening. At first I was furious because of the torturous and very degrading behavior of men she speaks of, I didn't think I wanted to finish. I then felt that I owed it to her to finish, like it was the least I could do for her since she was so brave in writing the book. Then as I got 3/4 or so into the book, I felt it was a recruiting (for donations, help, volunteers, etc) tool. It is a fast read....only took me a few days to read. I am glad I read it because I learned a lot, I developed a sense of compassion for the women there and a lot of other places in similar situations. Sure we have our problems but we are so fortunate to be living here where we have to worry about whether the democrats or the republicans are going to run the country. These people don't know what it feels like to be loved, to have a family or to have respect and dignity. I have been describing this book as a horribly good book........horrible that these things happen and how they happen.....good in that everyone should read it. You should feel humbled and grateful when you're done.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is breathtaking. For me, it gave me a perspective of someone who has had hardships not many go through. The strength she possessed to making something so beautiful out of something so sad is magical. This novel has actually inspired me to join the Peace Corps. Bravo and many thanks to Somaly for being brave enough to becoming a literal "open Book"
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Truly inspiring book'
Anonymous More than 1 year ago