Sunday, July 15, 2012

Book Review - Never Fall Down

Never Fall DownNever Fall Down by Patricia McCormick
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This reads like fiction, but it's true to the core, a bigraphy of a victim of child war.

Eleven-year-old Arn Chorn-Pond is sucked into the Cambodian war when he, his sisters, aunt and entire village are taken into virtual slavery by the Khmer Rouge in 1975. Before they day he was force-marched fom his home under the promise that it would only be for three days, until the day almost four years later when he found himseld on a plane for America where he was adopted by an American minister, he was forced to endure an almost unimaginable hell where all he could do was survive while wondering if he should keep bothering. This is told from the child's point of view, his gradual realization that the three days might never end, watching people he knew being left dead at the side of the road or being led away to never be seen again, while the rotting pile at the edge of camp keeps growing larger. The broken English used makes the story all the more compelling. This is not a book for those with a weak stomach, and not just because diarrhea becomes a part of daily life.

Before he is fourteen he deals with the kinds of moral dilemmas that would destroy many adults. He faces a woman who first curses him for being an enemy and then begs him to kill her and save her from a slow painful death. Then he confronts his younger sister, gray as an old woman semi-conscious and dying by the side of the road, knowing that it would be a kindness to kill her and save her from future rape and torture or being eaten by animals as hungry as the people.

In spite of the death all around him, including being forced to witness executions of people he knows and help bury the bodies, he fights the growing "tiger in his gut." Somehow he is chosen to survive.

Even though we know this is the true story of a man who has become a powerful speaker for children and peace, founding Cambodian Living Arts ( the writing keeps us at the edge as we wonder what next can happen to this child, and how will he live through it and retain his humanity.

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