Music of the Ghosts by Vaddey Ratner [in Library Journal]
After nearly a quarter-century spent in Minnesota, Teera returns to her native Cambodia, fulfilling her aunt’s dying wish that part of her ashes be delivered home. Having witnessed, decades earlier, the decimation of the rest of her family, Teera is now completely alone.
She seeks the Old Musician, who has sent her a shocking letter claiming he knew her father. At the temple where Teera will relinquish her aunt’s remains, the Old Musician waits, his aging body marked by the Khmer Rouge’s unrelenting torture, his memories a debilitating spiritual burden of everything he did to stay alive. By delivering the precious musical instruments of a dead man to his daughter, the Old Musician hopes for some semblance of atonement, of forgiveness. Presented in alternating chapters over three “movements,” Vaddey Ratner’s Music is a mellifluous composition for two voices in echoing counterpoint.
After fictionalizing her own survivor story in her bestselling debut, In the Shadow of the Banyan, Ratner’s sophomore title should place her squarely alongside Yiyun Li, Khaled Hosseini, and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, writers who have miraculously rendered inhumanity into astonishingly redemptive literary testimony.