The Hungry Ghosts

Publisher: Anchor Canada
"A novel of raw human longing. . . . his stripped-down prose focuses on the deeply personal with precision and insight. . . . Selvadurai's work reminds me that the contemporary novel doesn't necessarily have to resort to thrills or high jinks in order to find its usefulness. Here, it unforgettably explores the interplay between individual intention and the tragedy of a nation's history." --The Globe and Mail
     In Sri Lankan myth, a person who dies may be reborn a "hungry ghost"--a ghost with a large stomach that can never be filled through its tiny mouth--if he has desired too much during his life. It is the duty of the living to free the dead who are doomed to this fate by transferring karma from their own good deeds. In Shyam Selvadurai's masterful new novel, Shivan, a troubled young man of mixed Tamil and Sinhalese ancestry, is preparing to travel from Toronto, Canada, to the land of his childhood, Sri Lanka, to rescue his ailing grandmother and bring her back to die. But on the eve of his departure--as Shivan meditates on his turbulent past, recalls his gradual discovery of his homosexuality, and wrestles with his complicated relationship with the wily old woman--he discovers just how much his own heart's desires are entwined with the volatile political, racial, and sexual mix of Sri Lanka's past and present. In the end, Shivan must decide: will he rescue his grandmother, or join her?
     The Hungry Ghosts is an unconventional exploration of the immigrant experience; a tale of family ties and the long reach of the past; and a heartwrenching look at how racial, political, and sexual differences can tear apart a country, a family, and a human being.

PRAISE FOR

 • "This young romance, like something out of an Edmund White novel, is beautifully and powerfully imagined. . . . Calling to mind the work of Indo-American writer Jhumpa Lahiri, Selvadurai does an excellent job contrasting Sri Lanka and Canada." --Winnipeg Free Press
 • "From his debut novel, 1994's Funny Boy, to his latest, The Hungry Ghosts, he's meditated on his birth country's fraught mélange of history, politics and religion while developing a style that's anything but bare bones and laconic." --National Post