The Rent Collector by Camron Wright

The Rent Collector by Camron WrightScreen Shot 2015-07-21 at 10.06.45 AM

In the past year, I have read various novels about countries, cultures and life experiences that were immensely different than anything that I knew about. This included the fate of orphan children who were shipped throughout the United States, the plight of Mexican immigrants in this country, the difficulties that the Jews and France experienced during World War II, the bizarre life of living in North Korea, the American-Indians living in this country during the 17th century. This novel presented still another perspective of which I was unfamiliar and did not fully appreciate. That is living on a gigantic garbage dump in modern day Cambodia where a person might live with his family in a shack with a tarp as a doorway and no electricity. On top of that, the families would eek out a bare subsistence by picking through the smoldering garbage piles to find any items that they could sell for a small amount of money to buy food which was mostly rice, so their families could survive until the next day. While the details of the story were fiction, the characters in the book were real and there were actual photographs of them at the end of the book.

Yet the novel was much more than a revelation of how some people might live today in Cambodia or the historical and political circumstances behind this travesty. Camron Wright has told a story that reflects the potential humanity that can exist in any life circumstances. He focuses on the tradition for literature to convey meaning, love and hope throughout the ages in a multitude of cultures.

One of the main characters in the book is the story teller of this novel, Sang Ly. We meet her as a married woman with a small sick child who was trying to survive in this horrendous environment. The other main character is Sopeap Sin or the rent collector, a seemingly mean old woman who collects the rent from these poor people who live in the immediate area surrounding this gigantic garbage dump. We learned that she has a poignant and complicated history. Among the many facets of her background is that she has great knowledge of literature. She accepts Sang Ly’s invitation to teach her to read and the plot takes off from there. On one hand, this is a simple beautiful story and yet on the other hand, it is as complicated as the hidden meaning of great literature and the secrets of our dreams deep in our hearts.

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