The Journey of a Cambodian Cowboy by Yon Roeury
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
This is a very moving story about a young Khmer Cowherd who survived grinding poverty, the breakup of his family and the death of his mother to get himself an education and build a brighter future for himself. Written in both Khmer and English, the author takes on an intimate and sometimes painful journey through a land and people still traumatized by genocide and war to halfway across the Bridge to Brightness. It is a timeless story about an individual as he struggles to overcome adversity and will inspire readers of all ages and cultures, especially the current generation of the Khmer people.
I’ve read a lot of three-star books recently. Joining the ranks, Yon Reoury’s The Journey of a Cambodian Cowboy also gets 3/5 stars from me. Once again, I’ll mention Goodreads’ interpretation. Three stars mean I “liked it.” I think that’s a fairly accurate assessment.
I found The Journey of a Cambodian Cowboy to be slightly better than average in terms of how compelling it was. The author’s voice comes across as very authentic. It doesn’t have the feeling of being polished to the point where all semblance of personality is gone. Author Roeury writes things in a very simplistic way that gives glimpses into how Khmer culture thinks differently to other cultures. The nuances may be subtle, but to those who are sensitive enough to recognize them, they’re there. For this, I gave the book an extra half-star.
In terms of this book’s biblical soundness, let me start by saying that it’s not written by a believer. It shows by example (rather than stating outright) that all is vanity. The author solves or comes to terms with one problem in life only to face another, and nothing is new under the sun. Unfortunately, it seems that he’s made education his goal, refuge, and savior. Only Jesus is Savior. Roeury acknowledges God’s built-in message that makes us yearn for “something more,” but he’s come to a counterfeit solution. I sincerely hope that he’ll find true salvation in Jesus.
To summarise and conclude, I rate The Journey of a Cambodian Cowboy 3/5 stars. It’s answer to life’s vanity falls short of biblical truth, and yet the authentic narrative was somewhat of a redeeming factor. I would recommend it to anyone interested in post-genocide life of the young Khmer generation. Unfortunately, I think this book is hard to get a hold of outside of Cambodia.
A NOTE ON CONTENT
(The following may contain spoilers. Please read at your discretion)
The narrative includes descriptions of a father’s alcohol-induced violence. This entails throwing things about, but no physical abuse of people.
One story involves a traditional doctor. This may refer to a witch doctor of sorts, or it may just refer to a doctor who lives in a village and uses relatively traditional/primitive methods. The book doesn’t elaborate enough to tell.
none that I recall
This book tells two stories involving potentially disturbing elements:
- someone who is mentally crazy
- a snake bite and a near-death experience
Let’s Talk About It
- Have you read any little-known biographical books that stood out for their authenticity of voice?
- Do foreign cultures interest you? Are there any in particular that especially catch your attention?
- What book is on your nightstand these days?