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The Spirit of Survival

The Spirit of Survival

5.0 1
by Gail Sheehy

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal - Library Journal
In 1981, while in Thailand researching a news story on the Cambodian refugees, Sheehy interviewed an 11-year-old girl whose family had been annihilated by the Pol Pot regime. She was unable to forget ``the little girl who could not cry'' and overcame heavy odds to sponsor her to come to America. Sheehy welcomed Mohm as her daughter and began to help her recover her lost childhood. This book is Mohm's story, as she recounts the details of four years of killing that reduced her to terror and apathy. From Mohm's experiences, Sheehy deduces ``hallmarks of the victorious personality,'' a technique of overgeneralization that made her Passages and Pathfinders so popular. Her love for this child and anguish for her people, however, give this book an immediacy that transcends her previous work. Suzanne Druehl, Little Rock P.L., Ark.
School Library Journal - School Library Journal
YA In 1980 Sheehy found herself in one of life's passages which she had explored so thoroughly in her book Passages (Bantam, 1977). Providentially, while on assignment in Cambodia, she met Phat Mohm, a child refugee. Sheehy circumvented the bureaucracy and brought Mohm to New York to be a part of her busy life there. The book serves as a cathartic record of Mohm's struggle to deal with the memories of the past, as well as her difficult adjustment to a new culture. Along with Mohm's testimony, the book offers a well documented description of the Khmer Rouge regime and insights into Cambodian mythology and culture. Sheehy also explores the larger issue of human evil and the ability of personality to transcend it. This is a well written biography of a heroic teenager who has survived the most brutish physical and emotional abuse through the healing power of love. Anne D. Johnson, formerly at St. John's School, Houston

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:

Meet the Author

Brief Biography

New York City and Berkeley, California
Date of Birth:
November 27, 1937
B.A., University of Vermont; M.A., Columbia School of Journalism

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The Spirit of Survival 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This little-known work by Gail Sheehy is impossible to put down. While interviewing Cambodian refugees in a Thai camp, Sheehy met a young girl whose calm presence and terrifying story of survival were so powerful that the author felt compelled to return to Thailand to find her again and bring her back to America. From Mohm Phat's story, Sheehy extrapolates the characteristics of the survival spirit that carried the girl from a comfortable middle class existence in Phnompenh through the murder of her family and her trek to safety through dangerous Khmer Rouge territory. Mohm trusted her instincts, for example, and managed to escape the Khmer Rouge when she realized that her band of fellow travelers was being forced to dig their own mass grave. She found a different, more independent group to trust later. Several chapters are written in Mohm's own voice; there are some funny accounts of her first confusing days in New York City. (She is amazed and disgusted at the ways Americans relate to dogs, for example, after observing 'pooper-scooping' on the streets, being offered a pet dog to sleep with, and then a 'hot dog' to eat). Too bad the book is out of print - if you see it on a discount rack or at a rummage sale, scoop it up (no pun intended).