The Rent Collector | Why I’m Still Writing

You may not have noticed, but I’ve been in a bit of a slump. Although I promised myself that I would post here twice a week, it’s now been two weeks since my last post.

I could give you the excuses. A migraine. A trip. A cold. But the real reason is that I didn’t make it happen. I let my insecurities and fear get back to me again. And when I missed the deadline I had set for myself I let it get to me. I let the days and missed posts pile up instead of fixing my mistake.

No more, my friends! I’m back. And a good part of the motivation for returning is the very book I’ve been planning to review.



The idea for The Rent Collector was plenty to intrigue me. I absolutely love reading stories set in countries/cultures I’m not familiar. Then you add a strong mother protagonist fighting for the life of her child and I’m sold. This sounded like just the kind of book to expand my knowledge and empathy, as well as inspire me to be stronger myself. In short, just the kind of book I love to read.

What I didn’t know from the blurb is that the awesomeness of the story doesn’t end there. While The Rent Collector is a story about a mother in a dump in Cambodia, it is also a story about a woman who learns how to better herself and her community through learning to read, and even studying literature.

And with that, it became about 5000x more my kind of book.

It’s seriously beautiful, seeing the way Sang Ly, the main character, is totally transformed as she learns about literature. How it teaches her to find beauty in her little dump community and in the people she had learned to hate. She finds inspiration and determination and learns to rely on hope and to look for the good in others. Sang Ly learns all the things I absolutely love about literature.

In reading this book, I learned about a culture I had never given much thought to. I didn’t know anything about Cambodia before, and I had never even heard of someone living in a dump to gather trash for a living. I found a role model in the character of Sang Ly as she did everything she could to be the best mother her circumstances allowed her to be. And I was reminded yet again why literature and reading is so important to us as individuals, societies, and even as the whole human race.

So that’s why I couldn’t let my fear and my slump get in the way of writing this review for too long. You see, it wouldn’t be fair to the book and the lessons it taught me. It wouldn’t be right to have literature touch me like this  and then not do what I had promised to do in sharing the power of words. So I’m back. I’m writing. And I’ll do my best not to get caught in a slump like this again.

As for downsides, I do have to admit that the voice for the book was a little unbelievable. Although I usually enjoy first-person narratives, I do think this one might’ve been better in third person. The stubborn and sometimes sassy voice given to Sang Ly just didn’t seem to fit with her bold actions and determined personality. There were some places where it worked, but others where the voice just created a contradictory and frustrating character. However, this flaw is pretty insubstantial when compared with the themes and settings in the book.

I hope you read this book and are as touched and inspired as I am. This, my friends, is why I love words so much.

Recommend: Adult readers interested in other cultures or books about literacy

Cleanliness: Very minor language, some vague hints at sex, but overall pretty clean

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