Lucky Child

A Daughter of Cambodia Reunites with the Sister She Left Behind

Author: Loung Ung

Published By:
Harper Perennial

Reviewed by Melissa Minners


            Ever since I read Loung Ungís memoir, First They Killed My Father, I have wanted to read her follow-up book Lucky Child.  Loung Ungís first book was about her experience during and survival of the killing fields of Cambodia.  Her candid and shocking description of the events that took place and the horrors she experienced at the hands of the Khmer Rouge soldiers were incredibly moving.  Her writing style was captivating.  I couldnít wait to read her second book in which she describes how she reunited with the family she left behind in Cambodia when she traveled to America with her brother and his wife.

            Lucky Child is actually two memoirs in one.  We alternate from America to Cambodia as Loung discusses her life in the United States while her sister, Chou, describes her life in Cambodia.  As Loung struggles with the culture shock of coming to another country where she knows no one, learning a new language and trying to fit in, Chou struggles to survive as a poor peasant farmer in the still Khmer Rouge ridden countryside of Cambodia. 

            Loung suffers from post traumatic stress disorder throughout her early years in America.  She spends years trying to put the past behind her, trying not to think of the family she lost during the war and the family she left behind to come to America.  Despite her attempts to fit in, memories of what she and her family went through at the hands of Pol Potís soldiers haunt her at every turn.  She realizes that if she doesnít face these demons down - confront them once and for all - she will never live a normal life. 

            Meanwhile, Chou becomes a caretaker for her family - cooking the meals, cleaning the clothes and looking after the children while the elder members of the family, both women and men, farm the fields.  She witnesses harsh poverty, tragic death, disease, horrific amputations and survives Khmer Rouge raids.  When she is old enough, Chou finds herself in an arranged marriage.  And yet, Chou doesnít regret her life in Cambodia, bit rather embraces it for what it is and eventually becomes quite an impressive woman in her community.

            The reunion of the Ung sisters is long in coming, but when it finally takes place, both sisters are finally able to make their peace with the demons that have been haunting them all these years.  Their stories are at once horribly sad and incredibly uplifting.  For two women to suffer so much, survive and actually prosper is an amazing feat of incredible strength of character.

            As with her first book, Loung Ungís storytelling style is incredibly captivating and the words flow easily.  I finished this book in two days and it only took me that long because I was forced into trivial interruptions like eating, bathing, work, etc.  Otherwise, I would have finished the book in one day.

            The version of Lucky Child I read contained an additional section which featured the authorís biography, Loung Ungís own words as to what inspired her to write Lucky Child, an article she wrote which appeared in the New York Times, suggested readings and suggested dining areas.

            Lucky Child is an amazing follow-up to First They Killed My Father.  Loung Ung is an amazing writer gifted with incredible storytelling power.  I understand she is currently working on a historical novel.  I canít wait until she completes it - Iíll be first in line to buy it!


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