The Rent Collector by Camron Wright is an incredible book about the power of literacy and hope in desperate situations. The story is centered around Sang Ly and her family, who live in the biggest municipal waste dump in all of Cambodia and pick trash for a living. Her young son is very ill- she has spent years trying every medicine she can find, but nothing has helped. Sang Ly rents her home from Sopeap Sin, an irritable drunk known as “The Cow” to the residents of the dump.
But Sopeap knows something that the residents don’t. She knows how to read and write. Sang Ly, desperate to change her family’s circumstances, goes to Sopeap and begs her to teach her how to read and write. But soon, Sang Ly doesn’t only want to read and write- she wants to learn about literature. And what she finds in literature changes her life forever.
This book was absolutely amazing, especially considering that it was based on a real story. It was fascinating, gaining an insight into how, even in a dump, a sense of community, and love abounds. The novel itself is an incredible insight into the power of education, especially literature, which is something that many of us take for granted in our day-to-day lives. The novel also explores how some concepts are universal in literature, like love, luck, and happiness- common threads that tie all literature of the world together. The author did an amazing job of showing the kindness and humanity that are present even in the most adverse of circumstances.
I would give this book a 9.5 out of 10. Although it became a bit bland in places, it was absolutely a life-changing book about knowledge and compassion.