The Hungry Ghosts by Shyam Selvadurai

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...Shivan’s storytelling is equal parts enchanting and insightful.
-National Post arts

Synopsis

In Buddhist myth, the dead may be reborn as "hungry ghosts"—spirits with stomach so large they can never be full—if they have desired too much during their lives. It is the duty of the living relatives to free those doomed to this fate by doing kind deeds and creating good karma. In Shyam Selvadurai’s sweeping new novel, his first in more than a decade, he creates an unforgettable ghost, a powerful Sri Lankan matriarch whose wily ways, insatiable longing for land, houses, money and control, and tragic blindness to the human needs of those around her parallels the volatile political situation of her war-torn country.
 
The novel centres around Shivan Rassiah, the beloved grandson, who is of mixed Tamil and Sinhalese lineage, and who also—to his grandmother’s dismay—grows from beautiful boy to striking gay man. As the novel opens in the present day, Shivan, now living in Canada, is preparing to travel back to Colombo, Sri Lanka, to rescue his elderly and ailing grandmother, to remove her from the home—now fallen into disrepair—that is her pride, and bring her to Toronto to live our her final days. But throughout the night and into the early morning hours of his departure, Shivan grapples with his own insatiable hunger and is haunted by unrelenting ghosts of his own creation.
 
The Hungry Ghosts is a beautifully written, dazzling story of family, wealth and the long reach of the past. It shows how racial, political and sexual differences can tear apart both a country and the human heart—not just once, but many times, until the ghosts are fed and freed.

 

About Shyam Selvadurai

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SHYAM SELVADURAI is the acclaimed author of the novels "Funny Boy," which was shortlisted for the Giller Prize, won the Books in Canada First Novel Award and was a national bestseller, and "Cinnamon Gardens," which was shortlisted for the Trillium Award and sold around the world. He has also written a novel for young adults, "Swimming in the Monsoon Sea," which was shortlisted for the Governor General's Literary Award. Born in Colombo, Sri Lanka, Selvadurai now lives in Toronto and Sri Lanka. You can visit him at www.shyamselvadurai.com.
 
Published April 1, 2014 by Telegram Books. 384 pages
Genres: Literature & Fiction. Fiction
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Critic reviews for The Hungry Ghosts
All: 3 | Positive: 1 | Negative: 2

Toronto Star

Below average
Reviewed by Jennifer Hunter on Apr 19 2013

It is possible to write about difficult subjects without dousing the reader’s hopes for a more upbeat denouement.

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National Post arts

Good
Reviewed by Brett Josef Grubisic on Apr 12 2013

...Shivan’s storytelling is equal parts enchanting and insightful.

Read Full Review of The Hungry Ghosts | See more reviews from National Post arts

National Post arts

Above average
Reviewed by Brett Josef Grubisic on Apr 12 2013

When he’s not relating being afflicted by another “tremor of unease,” as in the novel’s final pages, Shivan’s storytelling is equal parts enchanting and insightful. His penchant for melodrama, however, undercuts the credibility he otherwise attains.

Read Full Review of The Hungry Ghosts | See more reviews from National Post arts

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