In Buddhist myth, those that have desired too much in life may be reborn as "hungry ghosts" - spirits with a stomach so large they can never be full. Six year-old Shivan is boarded up in his grandmother's mansion in Sri Lanka. While civil unrest brews outside, Shivan is fighting small battles of his own: the matriarch of his mysterious family wants to groom him as heir to her vast and corrupt empire. Shivan stands helpless as she sidelines his mother and sister and evicts vulnerable families from their homes. Unwilling to carry the burden of her expectations, Shivan dreams of escape to the West. Yet ghosts will follow you across continents. As the years pass, and Shivan's sexuality gradually comes to light, events spiral out of control and threaten to separate him from his family once and for all.
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What Reviewers Are Saying
'A ravishing portrait not just of one man but of an entire country's search for a resting place' Tash Aw 'An unsettling and moving account of a family - and a nation - at war with their own selves' Tan Twan Eng 'Unflinchingly insightful, Shyam Selvadurai's new novel evokes the clashing manifestations of human desire and longing in two continents.' Pankaj Mishra 'A tender and haunting meditation on the long reach of the past' Michelle de Kretser 'Powerful and beautifully written - an incredibly courageous book' Razia Iqbal, BBC News 'Selvadurai is a masterly writer, with a gift for marrying the personal with the political and cultural' India Today 'Rendered in visceral detail, locale plays a significant role here: Colombo, Toronto, and Vancouver each possess their own unique temperament ... The Hungry Ghosts is lustrous in its depictions of duty, dislocation, and the ways love and relationships haunt the human heart.' Georgia Straight '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 '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 'Both Shivan's story and Sri Lanka's rich history are told through simple yet evocative prose, and Selvadurai's first-person narrative, with its modernized Dickensian tone, is an effective storytelling device ... The Hungry Ghosts is an accomplished, resonant novel.' Quill & Quire