This “novel of extraordinary humanity” (Madeleine Thien, author of Do Not Say We Have Nothing) from New York Times bestselling author Vaddey Ratner reveals “the endless ways that families can be forged and broken hearts held” (Chicago Tribune) as a young woman begins an odyssey to discover the truth about her missing father.
Leaving the safety of America, Teera returns to Cambodia for the first time since her harrowing escape as a child refugee. She carries a letter from a man who mysteriously signs himself as “the Old Musician” and claims to have known her father in the Khmer Rouge prison where he disappeared twenty-five years ago.
In Phnom Penh, Teera finds a society still in turmoil, where perpetrators and survivors of unfathomable violence live side by side, striving to mend their still beloved country. She meets a young doctor who begins to open her heart, confronts her long-buried memories, and prepares to learn her father’s fate.
Meanwhile, the Old Musician, who earns his modest keep playing ceremonial music at a temple, awaits Teera’s visit. He will have to confess the bonds he shared with her parents, the passion with which they all embraced the Khmer Rouge’s illusory promise of a democratic society, and the truth about her father’s end.
A love story for things lost and restored, a lyrical hymn to the power of forgiveness, Music of the Ghosts is a “sensitive portrait of the inheritance of survival” (USA TODAY) and a journey through the embattled geography of the heart where love can be reborn.
Picking up many themes from her 2012 In the Shadow of the Banyan, Ratner's captivating novel is a tragic odyssey of love, loss, and forgiveness in the wake of unspeakable horrors. In 1979 Suteera Aung and her aunt Amara are forced to flee Cambodia during the Khmer Rouge regime as war rages around them. In a chilling admission as she and her fellow refugees fight to escape their once-beloved homeland, Suteera states that "there is no more home, only this land of open graves." Years later, after receiving a letter from a man known only as the Old Musician, Suteera is pulled back to the country that holds the terrors of her past. She learns that the old man and her father had spent time in the same jail, originally as enemies but eventually as friends. Suteera believes the mysterious musician can help her understand why her father, like the rest of her family, became consumed by the gaping, vicious mouth of war. As the title suggests, the songs and stories of ghosts fill the pages of this novel. Ratner, who lived through the rule of the Khmer Rouge herself, weaves a moving tale of hope and heartbreak that will accompany readers long after they finish the last page.