Author: Dr. Amporn Wathanavongs and Chantal Jauvin

Publisher: Maverick House Publishers

ISBN: 978-1-908518-22-4


This book is a gripping and truly absorbing read. I found it hard to put down and devoured it in two sessions.

This book documents the incredible journey of a man called Amporn Wathanavongs who began life as an orphan at the tender age of five and ended up establishing an institution for children after retirement. His lifework thus involved returning to the world in full measure, the childhood he himself had been deprived of.

The story starts with a scene where a five year old boy finds that his mother, his only protector, lies dead beside him. It goes on to describe the funeral and its aftermath when little Lek, the name by which his mother called him, was forced to fend for himself from that age onwards. He stole food from fruit and vegetable stands  and slept with stray dogs. Some years pass by. One day after being yelled at and humiliated for begging for food at a restaurant, he overhears a conversation between two men who are recruiting young boys to fight the French in neighbouring Cambodia. He enlists in order to get access to a regular supply of food.

Life in the military was  no cakewalk. After a few months of service, the war comes to an end and young Lek finds himself on his own once again. He attempts suicide but gets rescued and is directed to go to the monastery in his ancestral village where the Buddhist monks were bound to accept him.

At the monastery, he learns to read and write. Not only that, he discovers a latent love of learning in general and Buddhist philosophy in particular. This is where Amporns life takes a turn for the better.  He takes his monastic vows half heartedly, but does not confirm them when it is time to do so, as he wanted to raise  a family. This he does.  Not only that, he creates an institution which aims to improve the lot of thousands of children in Thailand, who are mired in poverty and cannot see their way to improving their station on life. How Ampron gets to the stage where he can hel other children is the subject of this book.

As mentioned above, this book is a fast and very gripping read. The author, Chantal Jauvin, has depicted some scenes in  such vivid detail, that it seems as if she was there in person. We also get to see concretely how key decisions were taken in Amporn’s life, the pros and cons of each of which are  mentioned in detail. Not only that, the authors have depicted Amporns changing mindset over the course of his life, from being a wastrel, to a mercenary soldier, to a Buddhist monk, to a Christian aid worker; the pain and agony behind each decision has been documented. The second author also mentions the change in Amporn’s thought processes as he metamorphosed from a Buddhist monk to a born again Christian.

Chantal Jauvin has painted a balanced and authentic portrayal of Amporn Wathanavongs’ life, without undue glorification, in this debut memoir. I recommend it warmly as a source of inspiration to one and all.