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.
Interview with the Author:
- How long have you been writing?
Saving Nary is my first published novel so that takes me back to 2014 or thereabouts, but I have been writing for fun forever! I am a long-time writer of journals, newsletters, letters, short stories and the like. I also wrote professionally – grants and marketing copy – for ten years, and occasionally write an article for a professional journal or magazine.
- How long have you been a published author?
My first magazine article was published about a dozen years ago in a bicycling magazine. I have since published a clinical article in a peer reviewed acupuncture journal, another bicycling article, and a novel.
- What titles do you have available?
Saving Nary is my fiction title, available through my website and through Amazon. A finalist in the 2017 Indie Book Awards Multicultural Fiction Category, it tells the tale of a Cambodian refugee, resettled in America, searching for his daughters who were lost to him during Cambodia’s civil war.
- What made you choose the subject of this book?
The tragic events in Cambodia during the reign of the Khmer Rouge are a largely forgotten tale, subsumed by America’s focus on our involvement in the Vietnam War. Having worked in the field of Cambodian refugee refugee resettlement for many years during the 1980s and 1990s, I wanted to put a face on these events for readers, to help them grasp what the Cambodians endured and survived.
- Do you have any new titles coming soon?
I am currently working on a memoir of my time as a Peace Corps volunteer in Thailand, and a second novel set in Montana and China in the mid-1800s to early 1900s. Think Opium Wars, Boxer Rebellion, railroads, gold and silver mines and Chinese medicine and you’ll have some sense of what’s cooking for novel number two.
6. What is your favorite genre and why?
I love multicultural fiction that highlights an historical event or time period because it gives me the opportunity to learn about a different culture and lifestyle, embedded within the fabric of an event that shatters the norm and forces people to adapt to new circumstances. Human beings are at their best and their worst during these episodes in history. A good novel will present both sides, as well as the considerable grey areas in between.
7. What, to you, is the most exciting part of the writing process?
The story begins to write itself at a certain point. The characters take over, surprising plot twists occur and your fingers can barely keep up with the words streaming from your subconscious mind. I sometimes have to stop and take a break because it can get very intense. I also love it when you see an image in your mind and you place yourself within that image to capture the feel, the scent and the sound of it, and then find the words to impart it to paper. Magic!
- If you could co-author a book with anyone, who would you choose and why?
What a great question! Donna Tartt has a way of pulling the reader into the immediacy of a tense scene by her spot-on sensory detail; the openings scenes of “The Goldfinch” depicting an explosion and fire in a museum told through the experience of a little boy is some of the best writing I have ever read. Khalid Hosseini (A Thousand Splendid Suns; The Kite Runner) makes us care deeply about his Afghani characters. Even as we learn about a culture with customs and mores vastly different from Western culture, we can feel our common humanity.
9. Where can readers find you on the web?
My website address is www.caroldement.com Stop in and visit, and drop me a note!
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.
Follow the tour and comment; the more you comment, the better your chances of winning. The tour dates can be found here: