New York Times Review: On Sal Mal Lane by Ru Freeman

 New York Times Review


“Before reading this rich, sensory novel, my literary familiarity with Sri Lanka came mostly from Michael Ondaatje’s rollicking memoir, “Running in the Family.” But it was enough of an introduction, with all its extravagant, hilarious dysfunctions, to pique my interest in the island nation. Ru Freeman’s assured second novel is a much quieter yet rewarding portrait of a community of families on a dead-end road in Colombo, the country’s capital. They are a mixed lot on Sal Mal Lane: Sinhalese, Tamils and Burghers, descendants of European colonizers. “

“Freeman never strays far from the neighborhood’s youngest inhabitants. They are wondrous to behold, with their intelligence, imagination and innocence. I don’t know that I’ve seen children more opulently depicted in fiction since Dickens. ”
Christina Garcia, New York Times

Read on…

Best Books for May 13

On Sal Mal Lane

by Ru Freeman | Graywolf Press

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On a single street in Sri Lanka, the rumblings of far-off civil war grow louder while a group of childern–an ethnic mix that mirrors the region’s straining cultural diversiy–play cricket, fly kites and otherwise sparke with innocence. This is a brilliant, beautiful and crushing story about childhood, its kindnesses, comforts, misunderstandings and shifting allegiances, and also about the end of childhood. It’s not a spoiler to say the book is epically tragic (you’ll cry straight through the last 50 pages), because prescience is one of its themes: A young boy, pierced through with foreboding, senses what will happen to his cherished sister, while an omniscient narrator reminds us that

we are hurtling toward certain grief. When the war finally comes to Sal Mal Lane, you’ll understand exactly what’s been lost. And you’ll mourn it.

 

 

 

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