The Rent Collector

The Rent Collector

4.6 23
by Camron Wright
     
 

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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 really working. Just when things seem most bleak,… See more details below

Overview


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 really working. Just when things seem most bleak, Sang Ly learns a secret about the hated, ill-tempered woman, the "the rent collector"-she can read!  Reluctantly she agrees to teach Sang Ly and does so with the same harshness she applied to her collection duties until they both learn how literacy has the power to instill hope and transcend circumstance.

Based on a true story, set in the abject poverty of Cambodia against the backdrop of political oppression and the atrocities of the Khmer Rouge. 

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
The written word offers hope for a brighter future in Wright's fact-based new novel (after Letters for Emily). Sang Ly lives with her husband, Ki, and their habitually ill son, Nisay, in Cambodia's biggest municipal dump—Stung Meanchey. There, residents pick through the mountains of garbage in order to salvage resalable bits of flotsam, but Sang Ly is desperate to escape and secure a better life for her ailing son. The titular rent collector—"an abrupt, bitter, angry woman" named Sopeap Sin, but whom everyone calls "Cow—" turns out to be the gracious means by which Sang Ly's dreams might be realized. Hoping to educate Nisay, Sang Ly asks Sopeap Sin to teach her how to read, and as their pedagogical relationship deepens, so too does Sang Ly's understanding of literature expand and enrich her experience of life. But when Nisay's illness worsens and Sopeap Sin disappears, Sang Ly is wrenched from the niceties of composed narratives, and must set out on her own to save her son and uncover the truth behind her mentor's mysterious departure and elusive past. The miseries of the dump—prostitution, sickness, and gangs among them—are interwoven throughout the story, but rather than highlight the reasons behind Sang Ly's desire to leave, the peripheral chaos overwhelms and dilutes the core plot. Like Stung Meanchey, Wright's book sometimes shimmers, but there's a lot to sift through to get to the goods. (Sept.)
ForeWord Reviews Book of the Year Gold Award

ForeWord Reviews Book of the Year Gold Award
Great Southwest Book Festival Honorable Mention

Great Southwest Book Festival Honorable Mention
Utah Book Award Finalist

Utah Book Award Finalist 2014
Whitney Awards Best General Fiction Novel

Whitney Awards Best General Fiction Novel 2012
Nominated for the International Impac Dublin Literacy Award

Nominated for the International Impac Dublin Literacy Award
Booklist

"Working as “pickers,” Sang Ly and her husband, Ki Lim, earn their living by sifting through the trash at Stung Meanchey, Cambodia’s large city dump…An unlikely friendship blossoms between the two women, and Sang Ly learns that the Rent Collector’s gruff exterior hides unspeakable personal tragedies and a life shattered by the Khmer Rouge. Undergirding Sang Ly’s literary journey is the support and care of the Stung Meanchey community, illustrating how beauty can be found in even the ugliest of places. Drawn from the real lives of the residents of Stung Meanchey, this is a beautifully told story about the perseverance of the human spirit and the importance of standing up for what is right. This inspirational multicultural story will strike a chord with teen readers."—Booklist
 
From the Publisher

"The written word offers hope for a brighter future in Wright's fact-based new novel. Wright's book…shimmers."—Publishers Weekly

"A beautifully told story about the perseverance of the human spirit and the importance of standing up for what is right."—Booklist

"Through Sang Ly and the rent collector, readers will discover a wealth of insights: the lingering ravages of war, the common bonds of humanity, and the uplifting power of literature."—School Library Journal

“An amazing piece of literature, a must read for every book club!” — Sean Covey, New York Times bestselling author

Sean Covey

 “An amazing piece of literature, a must read for every book club!”
Wendy Ulrich

“Compelling, insightful, and engaging.” —Wendy Ulrich, New York Times bestselling author

A. Todd Smith

“Stunning! A passionately poignant work.” 

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781609077051
Publisher:
Shadow Mountain Publishing
Publication date:
10/01/2013
Pages:
288
Sales rank:
32,739
Product dimensions:
6.00(w) x 8.90(h) x 0.90(d)
Age Range:
16 Years

Related Subjects

Read an Excerpt

The steady rumble of uninvited trucks tries to pry into the safety of my dream, a dream in which I am still a child prancing along the trail toward the rice fields where my family works in the Prey Veng province of Cambodia’s countryside. It is a cheerful morning as I pull at my grandfather’s bony fingers, tugging him along while he struggles to keep up. . . .

He bends close, squints his eyes at mine, and peeks into my thoughts as though he were the village fortune-teller. I find it unnerving and so I glance down at my bare and dirty toes. He won’t allow it. With a touch from his calloused finger to my chin he raises my gaze. He speaks assuredly, but still with enough grandfatherly giggle trailing in his voice to make certain my little-girl ears pay attention to every smiling syllable.

“Life will not always be so hard or cruel. Our difficulties are but a moment.”

I stare back, trying to make sense of his words, for my life is neither hard nor cruel. I am still too young to recognize that we are poor—that in spite of the grandeur of the province and the hours my family toils each day, we don’t own the land on which we work. I haven’t yet grasped that earning enough money to buy food on the very day we eat it isn’t an adventure embraced by the world.

The rumble grows louder, and Grandfather rocks forward on his toes.

“Remember, Sang Ly. When you find your purpose—and you will find your purpose—never let go. Peace is a product of both patience and persistence.”

How can a child pretend to make sense of such a puzzling phrase?

“Sang Ly,” he repeats, as if he finds eminent joy in the sound of my name, “it starts today. Today is going to be a very lucky day.”

What People are saying about this

Jenny Lyons
"A rich and rewarding tale of hope!" Jenny Lyons, The King's English Bookshop
Sean Covey
"An amazing piece of literature, a must read for every book club!" Sean Covey, New York Times bestselling author
A. Todd Smith
"Stunning! A passionately poignant work." A. Todd Smith, Emmy-winning director
Wendy Ulrich
"...Compelling, insightful, and engaging." Wendy Ulrich, New York Times bestselling author

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