WHO: Gail Gutradt
WHAT: IN A ROCKET MADE OF ICE:
Among the Children of Wat Opot
WHEN: Published by Knopf August 18, 2014
WHERE: The story takes place in rural Cambodia.
WHY: “A refreshing account of generous people devoting their time and energy to doing something right.
“The moving story of a tiny community in Cambodia where children whose lives have been shattered by AIDS are cared for, educated and raised to live full lives in the outside world.
“Gail Gutradt, a middle-aged woman living in Maine, first volunteered in Wat Opot in 2005 and returned there multiple times from 2007 to 2012. Her account is primarily about the children, some orphaned by AIDS but themselves HIV-negative, others HIV-positive who were once facing an early death but now, thanks to anti-viral medications, can survive. All live together as one large family in a nondenominational, nongovernmental center founded by an American medic, Wayne Dale Matthysse, and a Cambodian Buddhist, Vandin San.
“Midway through her insightful vignettes about individual children, Gutradt tells the back story: how and why Matthysse and the author came to be there, what the center means to them and how it has changed their lives. As the formerly depressed, soul-searching author puts it, ‘I needed to save my life.’ It is worth noting that the church that once supported Wat Opot withdrew its backing when it felt that Matthysse was not being sufficiently evangelical, and now Gutradt is an active fundraiser for the center through the Wat Opot Children’s Fund. Her many photographs of the youngsters are appealing, but her warm stories generally avoid sentimentality; the needy children are not angels, and as they grow, they sometimes present truly tough problems for those concerned about their welfares and futures. Gutradt also discusses the problems created by unreliable government agencies and well-intentioned but uninformed do-gooders.” —KIRKUS REVIEWS
From the beginning of the book: Shhhhhh. Listen. Sita is waking the day. Sita turns on her portable radio the moment she wakes up. She raises the volume as high as it will go, way past the point of distortion, then twists the dial back and forth searching for something that pleases her: the trailing melodies of Buddhist mantras, a marching band playing the national anthem of the Kingdom of Cambodia, karaoke tunes, monks chanting, more mantras, marching, karaoke, monks and on and on and back again.
I open my eyes. It is still dark outside, and only the dim differentiation of wall from ceiling, sky from wall, barely perceptible through the pink mosquito net, shows where my single window looks out onto the world. In the distance a rooster crows weakly, sounding cross. Is it too early for him as well?
A wandering many-voiced chant arises from the Buddhist temple next door, the morning prayers of young and aged monks. One dog barks. From across the way another answers.
Sita is playing a Western song now with lyrics in Khmer. Her cheap speakers crackle under the strain.
A gecko begins chirping on the stucco wall.
On the porch outside my room Wayne is still a snoring mountain. His mosquito net is tucked into the black fleece blanket on his bed. Wayne says he sleeps outdoors so he can hear the children when they cry, and manages to sleep, often uneasily, through noises less urgent.
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Publicist for this title: Erinn McGrath | 212-572-2035 | firstname.lastname@example.org