“Dogs at the Perimeter”
A Novel by Madeleine Thien
“Dogs at the Perimeter” begins one winter, when Janie, a researcher in Montreal, suddenly leaves her husband and young son. She retreats to the home of her friend and mentor, the neurologist Hiroji Matsui, who has mysteriously disappeared. Thirty years earlier, in 1975, Janie is a child in Cambodia. When the Khmer Rouge take control of the country, the fallen city of Phnom Penh is emptied.
Together with her parents and her younger brother, Sopham, she is forced into the countryside. In the terror that follows, when to remember one’s own past becomes a crime against the revolution, her father, a translator, is taken away, and gradually her mother weakens. Survival depends on escape, and ultimately Janie and Sopham must undertake a treacherous journey through the flooded caves at the border, across the sea, and toward a new existence. Now, as she moves among Hiroji’s belongings, Janie salvages fragments of his past and, slowly, her own. Needing to find a truth she can be reconciled with, to make amends, she follows Hiroji’s story to Southeast Asia where she believes he has gone in search of his brother James, a Red Cross doctor who went missing in Cambodia many years earlier, and whose own story comes vividly, powerfully to life.
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