The Last One: An Orphan Child Fights to Survive the Killing Fields of Cambodia
Marin R. Yann
Outskirt Press (2013)
Reviewed by Daryn Watson for Reader Views (12/13)
“The Last One” is an extremely heart wrenching true story by Marin R. Yann about his survival of the brutal Communist rule of Khmer Rouge in Cambodia. At the tender age of just five years old, Marin and his parents, along with his older sister Vanny, and his younger brother Roth, were forced to live under strict rules that separated Marin from his family and eventually led them all to perish.
The story begins with the invading Communist forces in Marin’s village, forcing Marin’s family to evacuate. The family was forced into camps with many other families. Shortly after the invasion, Marin’s younger brother, Roth, died of sickness and disease. This emotionally devastated his mother, Mak. To lose your home, freedom and then your youngest child is incomprehensible for any parent.
The Khmer Rouge soldiers were merciless and relentless with enforcing rules. Marin’s parents were forced to work extremely long days while Vanny was sent to a girl’s camp away from the family. Marin was left alone to fend for himself without any adults around. He would see his parents briefly at lunch but as time went on their work days became longer and longer.
Eventually Marin’s father, Pa as he was known, was forced to leave the family to work in a camp far away. He never saw his Pa again. Many men were either worked to death or killed by the Khmer Rouge. To make matters worse, Mak became very ill and died also.
For a brief while, Marin was able to find and stay with Vanny, but it was usually forbidden for males to stay in a female camp. He was sent away to live at a camp for young male boys and teens. As Marin began to grow, he was able to do some manual labor, such as pulling weeds in leech infested waters, which terrified him. Or he would be forced to chase birds away from the rice fields.
Marin’s description of his fight for survival is extremely courageous as well as stomach turning. His descriptions of eating all sorts of insects and creatures, including termites frogs, snakes, birds, and many others gives the reader a vivid sense of his desperation to live and the battle of his constant hunger.
I was also very drawn into the immense fear Marin experienced with his fight for survival from the Khmer Rouge soldiers. The behavior of the ruling Communist government was atrocious, inhumane and despicable, yet through it all, with the help of some kind strangers and families, Marin was able to survive and share his fantastic and tragic story.
I am grateful for the opportunity to read this book because it sheds light on the senseless atrocities of what happened in Cambodia in the mid to late 1970’s. I found compassion for Marin from what he has been through. I also admire the immense strength he must possess inside to write this book, despite his deep reservations of not wanting to share his story.
I thank the author for sharing his story with us. I recommend reading this book to anyone who wants a perspective on how tough a person’s life can really be and how fortunate we are that most of us have not had to experience such loss and tragedy as Marin R. Yann has experienced.