His mother said they were "poor uneducated peasants, thieves, drunks, and fugitives" and the family had to be on their guard at all times because no one knew when they would arrive in Salatrave. Bunpah, or "Mop" as his family nicknamed him, was only nine years old and really didn't understand what the Khmer Rouge was. Their leader, Pol Pot, and his band of thugs would raid Cambodian villages and kill with no rhyme or reason, claiming they were "saviors." They came one night and the family began to run in the darkness, but their unsuccessful flight got them nowhere. Mop was shot three times and later claimed that a ditch quickly "filled with my family's blood." He survived, but would he ever really live again?
Mop and a few surviving family members had to struggle to survive under thumbs of the men dressed in black. He survived his painful wounds, but he claimed that his "misery was just beginning." In order to forget the graphic memory of his mother and baby sister's deaths he had to keep repeating to himself, "Do not think about it. Do not think about it," but the memories would not go away. He was quickly turned into a slave for these madmen. Working in the rice fields relentlessly day after day began to physically take its toll on Mop and his siblings. If starvation didn't take his people the Khmer Rouge were more than willing to help them out. The people struggling in the rice paddies knew that "anyone who complained would be shot or beaten to death with a hammer or hoe." Would any of them survive to tell their story or would they all be buried in the killing fields?
This very graphic, sobering story of a young boy's efforts to survive during the reign of the Khmer Rouge was stunning. Once I picked up this book I didn't set it down. Nawuth Keat's story of his childhood and the many things he had to do in order to simply survive such as living on "crickets, rats, snakes, and frogs," to say nothing of the horrors he witnessed is no less than a miracle. This is a heartbreaking memoir, but one that must be told. This is a young adult book, but will have a wide reaching audience for those who do not want to forget.