This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. Carol DeMent will be awarding $10 Amazon/BN GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour. Click on the tour banner to see the other stops on the tour.
The author has graciously stopped by to share five things we might not know about her. Thanks for sharing with us today!
1. I once rode a bicycle 204 miles in one day! I did train for it, of course, for about five months. It took thirteen hours of riding. I completed the ride with two other friends, and it was a wonderful, life affirming experience. We finished just behind a thirteen year-old boy and ahead of an eighty year-old man, so enough said about that! The route was from Seattle, Washington to Portland, Oregon on a ride that a regional bike organization sponsors every year. Most people do it in two days.
2. I have sky-dived twice. For fun. Uh huh. The first time I was unprepared for the force of the wind when I stepped out onto the wing of the plane and was blown unceremoniously off in an awkward and graceless tumble. The second time I launched properly but was blown a bit off course (dang wind) and landed in a field and then was dragged along the ground by my billowing chute for thirty feet or so (did I mention the wind?) before I could get my feet under me and my chute under control. Enough fun for me!
3. I used to interpret for Laotian refugees when they arrived in America. I became fluent in Thai while I was a Peace Corps volunteer and the Lao and Thai languages are very similar, so I was able to help out in some pretty interesting situations. When your client has never had a formal education, it can be challenging to explain complex medical procedures. I had to try to explain things like doctors running little balloons up your veins from your leg to your heart to people who feared giving blood because they didn’t know the body would make more blood. Or that a doctor was going to put you in a pool of water and shoot soundwaves at your kidneys to break up your kidney stones. Tough work, but very rewarding.
4. I make a mean apple pie. I won’t share my secret, and I do use frozen pie crusts, but the filling, oh my!
5. I crave good conversation about serious topics. The art of deep conversation is being lost in America. We are so beset by our devices and besotted with simple soundbites that our ability to hold a reasoned conversation, in which participants share views and learn from one another, is greatly diminished. People often argue a point and take a defensive stance against opposing viewpoints, but courteous, civil and illuminating discourse has fallen by the wayside. And there are so many things to discuss! Politics, religion, the meaning of life, art, artificial intelligence, climate change, medicine, history and science!! Give me a dinner party with interesting and talented people with whom to exchange ideas and I am a happy camper!
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.
Read an Excerpt:
“Go back to Cambodia?” Pra Chhay stared at Khath with puzzled eyes.
Khath nodded. “What choice do we have, brother?” he said. “Our people are being forced back across the border into the arms of the Khmer Rouge. My daughters will have no chance now to get into Khao I Dang. We must go back to continue our search for them.”
Pra Chhay, dressed in saffron monk’s robes and cracked rubber sandals, stood framed by the setting sun outside the open doorway of the bamboo and thatch shelter he shared with Khath and ﬁve other families. The odor of too many human bodies crowded into a small living space hung heavy in the air spilling across the threshold.
The rectangular shelter was partitioned by side walls into six open-faced cubicles, three to a side, facing a center corridor running the length of the shelter. There was no privacy other than what could be attained by turning one’s back to the open side of one’s cubicle or crawling inside a mosquito net hung over the thin kapok sleeping mattresses on the ﬂoor. The shelter’s only doors were located at each end of the central corridor, opening directly to the outside.
With no way to secure themselves or their meagre belongings, the refugees lived in helpless fear of night visits by bored Thai soldiers, whose transgressions ranged from theft to rape. Pra Chhay and Khath occupied an end cubicle by the door, making them even more vulnerable to unwanted attention from the soldiers, but because of Pra Chhay’s position as a monk, they were usually left alone.
As Pra Chhay slipped his calloused feet out of his sandals, stepping barefoot into the corridor, a gentle breeze puffed out the hem of his robes and blew camp dust into the shelter.
Khath motioned to Pra Chhay to shut the door. Careful not to waste a drop of the day’s ration of precious water, he barely moistened the corner of a rag and ran it over random surfaces in their cubicle that might attract and harbor dust: the wooden altar in the corner, the cracks and edges of the bamboo slats that formed the walls of the hut, the straw mats that covered the ﬂoor. A squat wooden bench, left behind by the prior resident, completed the amenities of the living space.
Pra Chhay took off his outer layer of robes and hung them on a sliver of bamboo pulled out from the wall to serve as a peg for clothing. Turning, he watched Khath rub his cloth over the wooden bench, back and forth, back and forth, harder and harder, the knuckles gripping the cloth turning white with effort.
“Khath, stop it. You will polish our only seat away to nothing,” Pra Chhay said. “Tell me exactly what you heard today that makes you say we must return to Cambodia.” The monk settled himself comfortably on the ﬂoor.
With an effort, Khath slowed his rubbing and carefully folded the rag and laid it on his lap. His eyes followed the tiny particles now dancing in the single ray of golden sun that slipped through the crack between the outer door and its frame. He laced his ﬁngers tightly together to stop their reaching for the rag as, mesmerized, he watched the motes settle onto the areas he had just cleaned. The sight of dust on surfaces where it ought not to be was still intolerable to Khath, though nearly six years had passed since his obsession was born on the day the Khmer Rouge killed his wife and son.
“Silence that boy,” the soldier had said to his wife on that awful day. Khieu gathered their son Bunchan into her arms, but how is one to soothe a toddler who cries from hunger when there is no food? Khath, Khieu and their three children had been walking for three days in the heat and humidity, shoulder to shoulder with thousands of other refugees inching their way out of Phnom Penh by order of the Khmer Rouge. Already hunger, thirst and exhaustion had thinned their ranks: the elderly and the ill simply dropped along the sides of the road, patiently awaiting the mercy of death.
Given only minutes to prepare for their exodus, the food Khath and his family carried was gone in a day. After that, they bought, scavenged and bartered for whatever nourishment they could ﬁnd along the way. Now, they stood next in line before a table of grim-faced cadres in the simple uniform of the Khmer Rouge: black cotton shirts and pants with kramas, red-checkered scarves, wound around their heads or necks. The cadres were checking identity papers and quizzing the refugees about their prior occupations.
Bunchan’s incessant crying enraged the soldier. “Silence him or I will,” he warned Khieu.
About the Author: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.
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