Against the evocative backdrop of Cambodia unfolds the beguiling story of a spirited sixty-year-old 'mother' of a children’s orphanage, whose struggle to reconcile her past mirrors that of her adopted country, as it battles to come to terms with its own bloody history.
As Deborah Youngman is heading back to the Khmer Home for Blessed Children - an orphanage she has managed since its founding ten years ago - she cannot get over the unseasonal chill in the air. It isn’t supposed to be cold in February, at least not in Phnom Penh.
As she draws nearer to the Khmer Home, it quickly becomes clear that the weather is not the only enigma in store for her.
Upon her return, Deborah is confronted by Amanda, a twenty-something American backpacker who has travelled the length and breadth of rugged Cambodia in order to offer her services at the children’s home. As the two women collide, a story of hidden identities and secret agendas is set in motion. Exactly who is this strange young woman? Why is she here and where has she come from?
Perhaps on account of her compassionate nature - or just pure curiosity - Deborah allows the mysterious young woman to stay, against her better judgement. As the days go by, Deborah’s suspicions are mounting.
Between looking after her 'family' of forty forgotten Khmer children, and helping her adopted eighteen-year Cambodian daughter, Sam, apply to colleges in theStates, Deborah has little time to brood over her unsolicited aide-de-camp.
But when a sick newborn is left on the steps of the orphanage, the true horror of the young woman’s past begins to catch up with her and Deborah is suddenly forced to raise the issue of Amanda’s mysterious life. Will Deborah be able to stop Amanda’s insidious past from infecting the home, the children and herself before it’s too late?
Set against the backdrop of Cambodia’s violent history and the beginnings of its new Tribunal for justice, emerges a story of displaced souls and universal human struggles.
Drawing upon first-hand experiences as a volunteer in a Cambodian orphanage and her deep knowledge of the country’s battle to reconcile its future with this gruesome past, Sue Guiney delivers a powerful and poignant examination of the aftermath of war and the lasting effects of violence.
A Clash of Innocents delivers a vivid portrayal of Cambodia’s vibrant character and fascinating culture and does not shy away from engaging with the horrendous and controversial subjects or its war-torn history.
With its effortless intertwining of pertinent social issues with a moving, intelligent and multifaceted plot, Sue Guiney’s A Clash of Innocents is a convincing and captivating read which will stay with the reader long after the final page.
About the Author: Although a native of New York, Sue Guiney has spent over twenty years living in London, where she writes and teaches creative writing. Guiney’s work has appeared in literary journals and reviews on both side of the Atlantic.
Her first book, published by Bluechrome Publishing in 2006, is the text of her poetry play, Dreams of May, which premiered in London’s Pentameters Theatre.Her first novel, Tangled Roots, was published in 2008. In addition to her work as an author and teacher, Guiney served as the Artistic Director of CurvingRoad, a theatre arts charity which she founded in 2005.
Beginning in September 2011,Guiney will be the Writer-in-Residence in the SE Asian Department of the University of London’s School for Oriental and African Studies (SOAS). Sue Guiney currently lives in London with her husband and two sons.