Sue Guiney ’77 has published her second novel, Out of the Ruins (Ward Wood Publishing). At the beginning of the book, a Cambodian doctor is frustrated that the poor women in his country are dying needlessly. He reaches out to friends to help him create a new clinic for the local villages around Siem Reap’s world famous temples, and they answer his call.
An Irishman, Dr Diarmuid, arrives with his English assistant, Dr. Gemma, and a Canadian administrator Mr. Fred. Together they establish a place where poor women of Cambodia can find the basic care that so much of the world has long since taken for granted. A young and ambitious Cambodian nurse, Srey, acts as an interpreter and connection to the trust of the local community, but her idealized view of western medicine will be seriously challenged.
Tradition collides with science as East meets West, and though the doctors are all too eager to help, they have much to learn about their own personal demons in a desperate and seductive society.
In a recent interview in The Phnom Penh Post, Guiney comments on an aspect of her writing process: “I do quite a lot of research for my books, both through reading and on the Internet, but most importantly, by immersing myself in the place, walking the streets and talking to the people. For example, to research Out of the Ruins, I found a Khmer guide in his 20s who was willing to take me to streets where there are karaoke bars and tin-roofed shacks with girls of all ages offering themselves up for sale. He was brave to take a middle-aged Western woman to places she had no right being in. And I suppose I was brave to go with him. But I need to see things with my own eyes, even if they are just buildings and surroundings. And I need to talk to people about their experiences if possible.”
Guiney has lived in London for nearly 20 years where she writes and teaches fiction, poetry, and plays. Her work has appeared in prestigious literary journals on both sides of the Atlantic, and her first book, published by Bluechrome Publishing in 2006, is the text of her poetry play Dreams of May, (now been relaunched by Ward Wood Publishing). which premiered at London’s Pentameters Theatre. Ward Wood has also published her poetry collection Her Life Collected and her first novel set in Cambodia, A Clash of Innocents.