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This is a story opening in Cambodia and ending in U.S.A.


“Children of the River” is a novel by Linda Crew that describes about a Cambodian girl named Sundara Sovann who came to America with her aunt’s family. There are several interesting characters in this novel. For example, the relationship between Sundara and an American boy named Jonathan McKinnon is very interesting. In Cambodia, boys and girls are not allowed to hang out with each other, but the happy ending is that they became a couple. So Jonathan plays a very important role in this novel; as a result, he changes Sundara’s attitude and he became more Cambodian in the end. The most interesting roles in this novel are Jonathan’s conflicts; for instance, the way Jonathan deals with society, the relationship between Jonathan and Cathy, and Jonathan faceing himself.

One of Jonathan’s conflicts in this novel is the way Jonathan deals with society. Jonathan asked Sundara “We could go to the movies if you want. Whatever.”(Ch7 P69) She said “In my country, we don’t go out on a date at all.” (P70) Then she explained to him that Cambodian parents arrange their marry. He showed doubt on his face, because in his opinion people should find their own match, parents won’t always choose the right one. Another example of conflict is (CH 10 P109) Jonathan reached out and ruffled the little boy’s hair. It’s not good for him to do it. Because he might bring the boy’s soul away, he didn’t know he made a mistake. Sundara explained to him, but he didn’t feel guilty of doing it. Perhaps he only thought that he always could do all he wants to do.

The relationship between Jonathan and Cathy is a myth. For instance, Kelly told Sundara which “Cathy and Jonathan McKinnon have been going together forever. They’ve always been like this perfect couple.” (Ch4 P36) But in the hospital Cathy gave Jonathan a huge balloon bouquet. (Ch15 P156) Jonathan didn’t feel happy to receive it. Because each balloon had a smiley face on it, he already told her that he doesn’t like those smiley faces. He thought that she is supposed to know that. Maybe she just wants to show him that she cares about him, but she didn’t pay attention to what he would like or not. Sundara asks him “Do you love Cathy a lot?” (Ch15 P157) The answer is “I don’t know. I thought I did. Or maybe I thought I ought to. But do you realize the kind of stuff she talks to me about.” Maybe Cathy was just a fan who admired Jonathan in the football field. And she thinks that he loved her as much as she loved him. In fact, Jonathan didn’t have the same feeling as Cathy. 

In the end, the way Jonathan faced himself in this novel is another conflict. For example, he wanted to play football for fun, and not to play for win the champion. (Ch16 P160) He did not like people in violent fight when they play football so he quit the football team. Although a lot of people said to him, he should stay in the football team, he still decided to do what he wants to do. Finally, he changed. Also Jonathan knew that Sundara is a very traditional Cambodian, but he couldn’t control himself to kiss Sundara, and he said to her “I am sorry, OK? “(Ch19 P198) He became more Cambodian in his mind, and Sundara didn’t need to explain to him about the tradition of Cambodia. It means that he already stood by her side without saying more words to each other. 

After I read this novel, I found out the characteristic of Jonathan is really fascinating. Moreover he changes his behavior to be more Cambodian, because he faced three conditions including society, Cathy, and himself. Then he starts to consider about other conditions from Sundara’s point of view. As a result, the friendship grew up between Jonathan and Sundara. This is very important for them to combine their ideas together. They will become a match made in heaven. That’s a very happy ending.


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