A Blessing over Ashes: The Remarkable Odyssey of My Unlikely Brother

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9780380800490: A Blessing over Ashes: The Remarkable Odyssey of My Unlikely Brother

On a snowy winter's night in Vermont, eleven-year-old Adam Fifield and his family awaited the arrival of his new foster brother, Soeuth, a fourteen-year-old refugee from the killing fields of Cambodia.  Scrawny and terrified, Soeuth was mute for days, warily retreating into his room despite the Fifields' numerous attempts to make him feel welcome.  But for Soeuth, whose young life had been plagued with fear and violence, it would be months before any place could feel like home.

In this rewarding memoir, Adam Fifield recalls the months and years that followed his first meeting with Soeuth.  He describes the boy's amazing physical prowess, his sense of humor, and, juxtaposed against his own typically American coming of age, the horrific details of Soeuth's early years.  But even more compelling is the story of Adam and his brother's journey to Cambodia to meet the family Soeuth once thought dead.  What awaits them on the side of the globe will both reunite Soeuth with his lost family and cement the relationship he has forced with his new one.

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Review:

A cross-cultural meeting between Middle America and Cambodia, A Blessing Over Ashes is an unusual story that combines classic coming-of-age events with the sad history of a young refugee from the devastated Cambodia of the last decades. Soeuth--the refugee--came to live with the Fifield family at the age of 14. Adam, the family's eldest son, narrates the story in conversational slang; reading this book is like listening to an old friend tell his surprising life story. Beginning chapters alternate between Adam and Soeuth's childhood, and the differences are striking, often disturbing: afternoon shopping trips contrasted with work camps, cultural events with exchange students compared with starvation and severe beatings. As they attend school together (Soeuth tutoring Adam in math) and fish (Soeuth successfully with his bare hands, Adam unsuccessfully with rod and reel), they become somewhat closer, but throughout the book there is a sense of distance from Soeuth, a feeling that he is not communicating deeply with anyone. Both boys move through their lives--Adam as a reporter, Soeuth as a mechanic--experiencing relationship troubles, cross-country moves, career frustrations, a marriage, and other fairly standard events. After years believing his Cambodian family dead, Soeuth discovers many relatives are still alive and struggling, and he is able to establish contact with them, which sadly seems to bring more responsibility and guilt than satisfaction. Ending the book on a humorous note, a conversation about a fortune teller and his prediction for Soeuth's life is a hopeful glimpse into what the future may bring now that his two worlds have been brought together. --Jill Lightner

About the Author:

Adam Fifield is a native of Vermont and a graduate of Bates College. He is a freelance writer whose work has appeared regularly in the Village Voice and In These Times, among other publications. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.

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Book Description William Morrow Company, United Kingdom, 2001. Paperback. Book Condition: New. Language: English . Brand New Book. On a snowy winter s night in Vermont, eleven-year-old Adam Fifield and his family awaited the arrival of his new foster brother, Soeuth, a fourteen-year-old refugee from the killing fields of Cambodia. Scrawny and terrified, Soeuth was mute for days, warily retreating into his room despite the Fifields numerous attempts to make him feel welcome. But for Soeuth, whose young life had been plagued with fear and violence, it would be months before any place could feel like home. In this rewarding memoir, Adam Fifield recalls the months and years that followed his first meeting with Soeuth. He describes the boy s amazing physical prowess, his sense of humor, and, juxtaposed against his own typically American coming of age, the horrific details of Soeuth s early years. But even more compelling is the story of Adam and his brother s journey to Cambodia to meet the family Soeuth once thought dead. What awaits them on the side of the globe will both reunite Soeuth with his lost family and cement the relationship he has forced with his new one. Bookseller Inventory # AAC9780380800490

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Book Description William Morrow Company, United Kingdom, 2001. Paperback. Book Condition: New. Language: English . Brand New Book. On a snowy winter s night in Vermont, eleven-year-old Adam Fifield and his family awaited the arrival of his new foster brother, Soeuth, a fourteen-year-old refugee from the killing fields of Cambodia. Scrawny and terrified, Soeuth was mute for days, warily retreating into his room despite the Fifields numerous attempts to make him feel welcome. But for Soeuth, whose young life had been plagued with fear and violence, it would be months before any place could feel like home. In this rewarding memoir, Adam Fifield recalls the months and years that followed his first meeting with Soeuth. He describes the boy s amazing physical prowess, his sense of humor, and, juxtaposed against his own typically American coming of age, the horrific details of Soeuth s early years. But even more compelling is the story of Adam and his brother s journey to Cambodia to meet the family Soeuth once thought dead. What awaits them on the side of the globe will both reunite Soeuth with his lost family and cement the relationship he has forced with his new one. Bookseller Inventory # AAC9780380800490

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