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A Blessing over Ashes: The Remarkable Odyssey of My Unlikely Brother

A Blessing over Ashes: The Remarkable Odyssey of My Unlikely Brother
Author: Adam Fifield
ISBN 13: 9780380800490
ISBN 10: 380800497
Edition: English Language
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks
Publication Date: 2001-06-05
Format: Paperback
Pages: 336
List Price: $13.99

Adam Fifield is 11 years old and lives in Vermont when the family is joined by his Cambodain foster brother Soeuth, a boy who survived the slave-labor camps of the Khmer Rouge. Adam describes the months that followed: Soeuth's wariness and detachment; his fear of being seized in the night by his parents' ghosts; Adam's discovery of his new brother's amazing physical skills, such as his ability to catch fish with his bare hands; and Soeuth's eventual emergence from years of darkness. As Soeuth gradually adjusts to rural middle-class America, a world fantastically different from teh horrors of his homeland, a bond is formed with his new brothers that will enduringly affect them all.

About the Author:

Adam Fifield is a native of Vermont and a graduate of Bates College and Columbia University. He is a regular contributor to the Village Voice and lives in Brookly, NY.

Publishers Weekly

Just after Christmas 1984, Soeuth Saut, a 14-year-old Cambodian refugee, arrived at the Fifield home in windswept Vermont. Much to the puzzlement of Adam Fifield, then 11, his newly adopted big brother was a taciturn boy who eluded his American family's affections and never discussed the country he came from. To dramatize the gaping differences in their backgrounds, Fifield uses short, alternating chapters depicting his carefree life in the lush Champlain Valley and the grim chronicle of Soeuth's coming-of-age under Pol Pot. While Fifield's descriptions are tediously detailed (when the Fifields take Soeuth to see the film The Killing Fields, for example, we learn where they sit in the theater, who sits next to whom and how the popcorn is shared), he provides little historical background for those unschooled in the complexities of Cambodian history. This peculiar approach makes for particularly baffling reading in the sections that report on Soeuth's return to Cambodia when, 14 years after his departure, he learns that his family is alive. Though Fifield was not present, his narration is peppered with phrases that are oddly omniscient: "Soeuth sat next to his mother on the bed, his hands still in his lap. His mother smiled quietly, her weary, wrinkled face, her soft dark eyes, telling him a thousand things." Yet a clear depiction of the political forces behind young Soeuth's life in labor camps and his long searches for his family in Cambodia before his adoption, as well as the tensions that persist and endanger him on his later returns, remain, much like Soeuth is to Fifield, frustratingly elusive. (July) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.|