Posted by authorcamilson
by Carol DeMent
A Finalist in the 2017 Next Generation Indie Book Awards, Saving Nary explores the losses, loyalties and secrets held within families broken by war and genocide. This compelling novel presents a palette of unique characters who struggle to make sense of the events that led them to America, even as they ponder the bewildering culture and lifestyle of their new homeland.
Refugee Khath Sophal lost everything when the Khmer Rouge swept into power in Cambodia: his livelihood gone, his family dead or missing; his sanity barely intact from the brutality he has been forced to witness.
Now resettled in the Pacific Northwest, Khath treads a narrow path between the horrors of his past and the uncertainties of the present. His nights are filled with twisted dreams of torture and death. By day he must guard constantly against the flashbacks triggered by the simple acts of daily living, made strange in a culture he does not understand.
Then Khath meets Nary, a mysterious and troubled Cambodian girl whose presence is both an aching reminder of the daughters he has lost, and living proof that his girls, too, could still be alive. Nary’s mother Phally, however, is another matter. A terrible suspicion grows in Khath’s mind that Phally is not who or what she claims to be. A split develops in the community between those who believe Phally and those who believe Khath. And those, it seems, who don’t really care who is right but just want to stir up trouble for their own personal gain.
Khath’s search for the truth leads him to the brink of the brutality he so despises in the Khmer Rouge. His struggle to wrest a confession from Phally ultimately forces him to face his own past and unravel the mystery of his missing daughters.
As the sun rose, Khath sat cross-legged in a lotus position in the small Buddhist temple nestled below Khao I Dang Mountain. The barbed wire perimeter fence separated the mountain from the refugee camp, but the mountain lent its power to the area nonetheless. Pra Chhay and two other monks chanted the Heart Sutra, a prayer of enlightenment, the rhythmic drone rising and falling in a soothing and familiar hum as the scent of incense hung heavily in the hot, humid air. About thirty refugees sat on the straw mats covering the wooden floor of the bamboo temple. The lips of many were moving as they softly chanted along with the monks.
Khath’s lips remained still, his heart empty. If asked, he would not disavow the teachings. He believed the teachings, yet the words of the Buddha had lost the power to move or to comfort him. He felt somehow distant from the teachings, as though they controlled behavior on a different world from the one he inhabited. It was a very lonely feeling.
The monks chanted on, a background hum that began to irritate Khath. He might as well be listening to the drone of mosquitoes as he toiled on the dikes under the watchful eyes of the Khmer Rouge, their guns aimed and ready, afraid to brush the insects away from his face lest he be beaten for not putting full attention into his work.
Observing the others in the temple, Khath envied them their faith. Pra Chhay often said there were two levels of Buddhism, one being the simple devotions taught to uneducated villagers; the other consisting of the higher practices and theories studied by the scholar monks.
AUTHOR Bio and Links
Carol DeMent worked in the field of South East Asian refugee resettlement for seven years, and completed master’s level research into international refugee resettlement policy. She lived for two years in Thailand as a Peace Corps volunteer and has traveled extensively in South East Asia. Her first novel, Saving Nary, was a Finalist in the 2017 Next Generation Indie Book Awards.
Carol DeMent will be awarding $10 Amazon/BN GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour.
Tell us about you as a person.
For the last ten or so years, my vacations are spent on a bike! I sign on to multiday trips with tour companies that cart your luggage from one place to the next, and you spend all day riding through beautiful places, then get up and do it again the next day. I have toured in Nepal, Canada, Vietnam, Cambodia, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Germany. Next up is the East coast of the US. It’s simply the very best way (in my opinion) to see a new area.
If you could hang out with one famous person for one day, who would it be and why?
I would choose to hang out with Michele Obama, because she is smart, strong, and fun-loving. I think we would talk and talk and talk about history, politics, culture, movies, music, feminism and the environment. We would do this while enjoying some activity outside on a beautiful day and then finish the day by cooking a meal together and then eating it.
What’s the story behind your latest book?
Saving Nary tells the story of a Cambodian refugee trying to find his daughters who were taken from him by the Khmer Rouge. The story is set in Thailand and the US, and illuminates the emotional and practical challenges of refugees trying to start a new life while their old life is still unresolved.
What is your writing process?
I think for days about a scene before I sit down to write it. I work out entire conversations between characters, visualize the setting, the mood, what people are wearing, and how the action will flow. As I mull it over, the pressure to write builds inside of me, so when I actually sit down at the computer, the scene sort of pours out of me.
Tell us about your main character:
My main character, Khath Sophal, is a man in his late 30’s who was severely traumatized by the brutality of the Khmer Rouge. He is troubled by flashbacks and nightmares, and struggles to adjust to life in the United States. His burning desire is to find his daughters, and though he has no real reason to believe they survived Cambodia’s civil war, he is convinced that they have and cannot rest until he finds them. He is a kind man, a good man, who is nearly pushed to the breaking point by the events happening around him.
If your book was to be turned into a movie, who would play the lead role and why.
When I visualize what Khath looks like, the actor who comes to mind is Jackie Chan, though Mr. Chan’s facial features are Chinese, rather than Cambodian. But as far as body type – compact, wiry, strong – Jackie Chan is definitely the one I would choose. Khath has a sort of wariness about him at all times, a watchfulness common to persons suffering from post-traumatic stress syndrome, and think Jackie Chan could portray that well. I am not familiar with any Cambodian actors other than the late Dith Pran.
What are you working on next?
I am working on a book set in Montana in the late 1800s to early 1900s that will explore the tensions arising from influx of Chinese immigrants to the US at that time. The story is told through the eyes of a young woman being exposed to this new culture at a time when her own family is undergoing tremendous turmoil and change. I like to write multicultural stories that examine the frayed edges where two cultures meet. I am also working on some memoirs about my years in Thailand as a Peace Corps volunteer.
What advice do you have for other writers who want to get the word out about their book?
Start early and keep a steady outflow of PR activities going. Hire professional help – it takes time and contacts that most writers haven’t had a chance to develop since most of us are writing in addition to having a day job. A good professional will open a lot of doors for you.
What is your favorite book on your shelf right now?
Plum Wine, by Angela Davis-Gardner. It’s about an English teacher in Japan who receives a bequest of memoirs from a woman who survived the bombing of Hiroshima.
Do you have any special/extraordinary talents?
Well, I am an acupuncturist so that is still a profession that many people find interesting and unusual. And I have been told that I am a very good listener. All my life, people have confided in me about their secrets and troubles. It’s not something I do consciously, but it’s a constant theme in my life.
You are given the choice of one super power. What super power would you have and why?
I would love to be able to fly. The views would be spectacular and one could cover a lot of ground getting from place to place easily and safely.
List 5 things on your bucket list:
- Go to Africa on a bike trip
- Go to Ireland on a bike trip
- Visit the new Black History Museum in Washington DC
- Become fluent in German and Thai
- Learn to make awesome chili
Where can readers find you on the web?
Any final thoughts?
Thank you for letting me share some bits about myself and my writing! Readers, let me know what you think about Saving Nary!
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