The Rent Collector

June 2017 – Nancy

Nancy’s Pick
June 2017

The Rent Collector
Camron Wright
Published by Shadow Mountain

The Rent Collector is a novel written by Camron Wright in 2012. The author states that the novel is a work of fiction, but it accurately reflects the time setting, the living conditions, the characters, and important historical facts. The book is based on a true story. The Rent Collector is set in Phnom Pheh, Cambodia at the time of the communist Khmer Rouge rule from April 27, 1975 to January 1979. The Pol Pot regime is responsible for the genocide of two million Cambodians and for isolating the Cambodian people from the world.

The novel’s main characters are Sang Ly, Ki Lim, her husband, their infant son Nisay, who is often ill, and Sopeap Sin. Sang Ly and family along with hundreds of dump people struggle to survive by picking through the 100 acre Stung Mean Chey,” River of Victory,” municipal trash dump. They pick through the dump hoping to find items to sell for food and rent money. The dump is their unofficial home. The government allows no permanent structures and orders all structures in the dump to be destroyed daily. Dump life is extremely dangerous and dirty, yet while feeling hopeless, the dump people form bonds with each other. The Rent Collector, Sopeap, is an abrupt, bitter, angry woman who drinks. She owns the perimeter lands where the “lucky” ones rent space for make shift structures that can remain “like tin and cardboard castles walls on the perimeters.”

Sang Ly has hopes for her son’s health and her family’s future. She wants to learn to read and her unlikely teacher will be Sopeap. The author takes the reader through the characters’ lives and adventures. Camron Wright leads you into Sang Ly’s discoveries of her dreams. Sang Ly finds the identity and life story of the Rent Collector, Sopeap. The author, through Sopeap, quotes many literary writings as a way to show that literature can instill hope and transform lives.

The Rent Collector will lead the reader to want to discover more about Cambodia and its people’s history.

The documentary, River of Victory, produced by Treavor Wright (son of Camron Wright), was the inspiration for the book. See riverofvictory.com.