Drama, Young Adult/Children

The Rent Collector by Camron Wright

I did not pay attention to the author’s background when I picked this book up. I somehow missed the author’s note as well. If I had paid attention, I would have been quite surprised. The story is narrated from the point of view of a Cambodian woman, and the author is neither. A little further digging showed where the story grew from, and I think it added a little more to the feel of the entire story.
The other point to note before I go into the book itself is that this version was adapted with young readers in mind. Given that I was able to visualize the harsh living conditions quite easily and be emotionally invested in them, I am left wondering what horrors the adult version had in it!
The lead protagonist is a young mother living in a garbage dump where everyone survives as trash pickers. The trash brings them a meagre amount of money, but they have to pay rent for the roof over their heads from that. The bigger issue hanging over Sang Ly’s head is the health of her child. He does not keep anything down, and no amount of medication seems to be able to cure him. Amidst such a situation, Sang Ly remembers her grandfather, feels his presence and thinks it is a portend for things to come. The dreaded rent collector makes her way into her home just then, and the conversation goes as badly as she expects it to. Things are set to change, however.
The rent collector shows a crack in her mean facade when she spies a book with personal meaning. Sang Ly, like many others of her ilk, does not know how to read. At some point, they set up a trade and thus began a new journey. The story has a few expected twists (mostly because, as readers, we can see the dropped hints better), but it is better for them!
The beauty of the tale is not just the growth arc of our central characters but of everyone around her and their interactions with her. Nothing felt stilted or overly dramatic. It felt real, making it a highly engrossing read. I went in with no expectations and came away with lingering thoughts about other people’s normal and how they continue to find things to smile and be joyous whenever they can.
I would highly recommend this book (at least in this version) to anyone who is intrigued by the content.
I received an ARC thanks to NetGalley and the publishers but the review is entirely based on my own reading experience.


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