Cover image for A blessing over ashes : the remarkable odyssey of my unlikely brother
A blessing over ashes : the remarkable odyssey of my unlikely brother
Fifield, Adam.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : William Morrow, [2000]

Physical Description:
viii, 326 pages ; 25 cm
Personal Subject:

Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
E184.K45 S284 2000 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

On Order



From a writer of insight, wit, and compassion
comes the remarkable story of a boy from the
killing fields of Cambodia who irrevocably
changed the life of an American family.
A Blessing Over Ashes

In clear vivid prose, Adam Fifield recaptures the snowy night when he, at the age of eleven, along with his mother, father, and younger brother, waited to welcome fifteen-year-old Soeuth into the family. The boy shuffled in, short and scrawny, a baseball cap shading his downcast eyes. He spoke not a word, yet a silent terror hovered around him.

The author describes the events of the months that followed: Soeuth's wariness and detachment; his fear of being seized in the night by his parents' ghosts; Adam's discovery of his new brother's amazing physical skills, like catching fish with his bare hands; and Soeuth's eventual and painful emergence from years of darkness. As Soeuth gradually adjusts to rural middle-class America, a world fantastically foreign from the horrors of his homeland, a bond is formed with his new brothers that would permanently affect them all.

In his senior year of high school, Soeuth leaves home, lured by an anesthetic world of drugs and alcohol. Over the next few years, the brothers drift apart, distracted by college, jobs, girlfriends. Then Soeuth finds out that the members of his Cambodian family -- whom, for fourteen years, he has presumed to be dead-are alive. The discovery is the beginning of a new journey -- one that reunites Soeuth with his long-lost brothers, sisters, and parents...and with his American brother Adam.

Reviews 1

Publisher's Weekly Review

Just after Christmas 1984, Soeuth Saut, a 14-year-old Cambodian refugee, arrived at the Fifield home in windswept Vermont. Much to the puzzlement of Adam Fifield, then 11, his newly adopted big brother was a taciturn boy who eluded his American family's affections and never discussed the country he came from. To dramatize the gaping differences in their backgrounds, Fifield uses short, alternating chapters depicting his carefree life in the lush Champlain Valley and the grim chronicle of Soeuth's coming-of-age under Pol Pot. While Fifield's descriptions are tediously detailed (when the Fifields take Soeuth to see the film The Killing Fields, for example, we learn where they sit in the theater, who sits next to whom and how the popcorn is shared), he provides little historical background for those unschooled in the complexities of Cambodian history. This peculiar approach makes for particularly baffling reading in the sections that report on Soeuth's return to Cambodia when, 14 years after his departure, he learns that his family is alive. Though Fifield was not present, his narration is peppered with phrases that are oddly omniscient: "Soeuth sat next to his mother on the bed, his hands still in his lap. His mother smiled quietly, her weary, wrinkled face, her soft dark eyes, telling him a thousand things." Yet a clear depiction of the political forces behind young Soeuth's life in labor camps and his long searches for his family in Cambodia before his adoption, as well as the tensions that persist and endanger him on his later returns, remain, much like Soeuth is to Fifield, frustratingly elusive. (July) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved