One-Minute Book Reviews

November 4, 2007

Pascal Khoo Thwe’s Award-Winning Memoir of Terror in Myanmar, ‘From the Land of Green Ghosts’

A remarkable memoir in the spirit of Infidel and A Long Way Gone

From the Land of Green Ghosts: A Burmese Odyssey. By Pascal Khoo Thwe. Foreword by John Casey. HarperPerennial, 304 pp., $13.95, paperback.

By Janice Harayda

Pascal Khoo Thwe once hoped to become “the first Burmese saint.” Instead he took up arms against a military regime that murdered his girlfriend, then tried to kill him. With government agents on his trail, he fled into the jungle and escaped with the help of John Casey, a professor at Cambridge University whom he had met by chance at a restaurant in Mandalay where he worked as a waiter. It is hard to say which is the greater miracle — that he survived such terrors or that he has written such an eloquent memoir about them. Atheists may find their lack of belief tested by this award-winning book, an astounding story of courage and faith in a divine providence that ultimately seemed fully justified.

From the Land of Green Ghosts in some ways resembles Ishmael Beah’s A Long Way Gone and Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s Infidel. But it is a better book than either, because it raises fewer questions about its author’s memory or credibility. First published in 2002, Khoo Thwe’s story has gained fresh interest since mass demonstrations against the military dictatorship in Myanmar began in August and thrust the country’s human-rights abuses back into the news. HarperCollins has posted a reading group guide to the book, an outstanding choice for reading groups, at www.harpercollins.com.

(c) 2007 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

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