Published April 2012 by HarperCollins Publishers
Source: the publisher and TLC Book Tours
When Loung Ung was just five years old, the Khmer Rouge marched in Phonm Pehn where Loung lived with her parents and six siblings. Along with millions of other Cambodians, the family was driven into the country to work in the fields. Three of her siblings were separated from the family and one day her father was led away in a blindfold and handcuffs never to be seen again. After years of back-breaking work, starvation and relenting terror, the Khmer Rouge was overthrown by the Vietnamese and Loung escaped the Vermont with her brother and his wife.This third memoir in Ung's trilogy, chronicles her life from her years as an undergraduate student to her years working with abused women and as an activist against land mines.
Growing up in her brother and sister-in-law's house, the strict rules included "no dating." It was not until she was in college that Ung began to secretly date. While the idea of dating was exciting, it brought to the forefront many of the fears and anxieties that Ung had long kept buried. Did she want a man who simply because he would take care of her? Would she every be able to allow a man to touch her intimately? Would she ever be able to believe that loved ones might not be snatched away from her? Most importantly would she be able to find a purpose for her life and forgiveness for those who had caused her so much pain?
Although the writing was a little uneven, ultimately Ung's story is one of survival in the face of terrible tragedy that makes for a compelling read. It almost feels like there are three stories in this book: the love story, the story of Ung finding her place in the world, and a history of Cambodia. The circling dance between Ung and Priemer sometimes felt overly detailed, yet reading about the internal struggle Ung went through as she tried to allow herself to fully love was constantly interesting. Sometimes the little girl who was nearly raped by a Vietnamese soldier caused Lulu to push Priemer away with amazing anger. Other times, it was fascinating to watch the young woman studying feminism fight for her right to happiness. Bit by bit, the walls began to crumble, eventually allowing Lulu to forgive the mother who had sent her half way around the world as a young girl.
Thanks to TLC Book Tours for introducing me to Loung Ung and her incredible life story. I'll certainly be adding her first two books, "First They Killed My Father" and "Lucky Child" to my wish list. I don't know that readers need to read the books in order, but I do think that readers would better understand grown up Lulu if they knew exactly what happened to the young Lulu. The full TLC tour includes reviews of all three books. To learn more about Loung Ung, visit her website.