This novel was chosen for my book group by another member, which is why I came to read it. It took me quite a while to overcome my early resistance to it, because at first it strained my capacity for suspending disbelief. It's an odd combination of things. The author writes that he was impelled to do the project after seeing his son's documentary about the people who lived on the edges of the Stung Meachey dump in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, and eked out their living by picking through it. I say 'lived' because the dump was closed in 2009, not because it existed in some ancient past. As the author says, this is a work of fiction, though from the photos in the back of the book, it appears to be based on real people, who have the same names as the fictional people, and some of the plot is not so fictional.
The part that was hardest for me to swallow was the part Wright added (apparently), which is the relationship of the protagonist to the rent collector of the title and the bargain they strike. The way events developed between them often struck me as unlikely.
Interestingly, though, the book grabbed hold of me in the second half. This was, I think , for two reasons. Partly it's because the more improbable part of the story is not so prominent anymore. But it's also because of precisely the point that Wright is trying to convey about literature. Stories pull you in. You want to find out what happens. You stay with it because you care. You are involved. In the beginning I could easily have given up and not thought any more about it. But by the end, I was quite happy to have read the book.
In reading, sometimes it can be good to just persist.
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