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The Hungry Ghosts Hardcover – Deckle Edge, Apr 2 2013

3.8 out of 5 stars 9 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Doubleday Canada; 1st Edition edition (April 2 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385670664
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385670661
  • Product Dimensions: 16.6 x 3.3 x 24.1 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 640 g
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars 9 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #146,556 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description


“Shyam Selvadurai returns with [a] novel of raw human longing. . . . his stripped-down prose focuses on the deeply personal with precision and insight. . . . All of Selvadurai’s characters are nuanced with motivations that stem not from their political or ethnic roles, but from raw human longing. . . . 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
“From his debut novel, 1994’s Funny Boy, to his latest, The Hungry Ghosts, [Selvadurai’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.”
The National Post

“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. The solid characters and diverse events, the Sri Lankan and Torontonian flavours, and the poetic conclusion will leave readers feeling as though they’ve lived a thousand and one stories, and lacked for little.”
Quill & Quire
“Moving seamlessly across time and place, the narrative contemplates karma, the belief that past misdeeds can generate spiritual debts that shackle future outcomes. . . . 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

“An epic novel. . . . [that] adds a new maturity of tone, scope, language and character.”
Montreal Gazette

The Hungry Ghosts [is] a haunting story of longing, family ties and forgiveness. . . . Compelling.”
Times Colonist

About the Author

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.

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Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

By books rock TOP 500 REVIEWER on April 30 2013
Format: Hardcover
I loved this book. It was a heartbreaking story but it clearly illustrated the strong ties of family and culture. Being an immigrant to Canada, I felt for the family of Shivan. Their life in SriLanka was riddled with political strife as well as tension with the seemingly overbearing grandmother. However, their move to Canada was not all that they had hoped for either and you could really feel the loneliness and alienation that they felt. Even though Sri Lanka seemed to be in total chaos, they missed their country terribly. On top of that, there was the story of Shivan's gay life in Sri Lanka and in Canada. As in life, the story did not have easy answers to relationship problems be they familial or romantic. I thought the book was amazing.
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Format: Hardcover
"The Hungry Ghosts" by Shyam Selvadurai is an exquisitely rich story about Shivan Rassiah, a young boy born from poverty and the weight of a burdened past that originally stems from an abrasive grandmother that poisons her lineage to create a wilful and eventually rebellious daughter--and the fate of her belief in her own terrible karma.

Amidst the turmoil of a divided Sri Lanka where the tensions between the Tamils and Sinhalese people are a vivid and violent backdrop to the tensions between Shivan's estranged grandmother and mother and the sides he is forced to choose from in order for his family to survive--Shivan also grows, discovers, and explores his own sexuality as a gay man and battles against the intolerance of his homosexuality by his Sri Lankan culture and community.

Between his grandmother's controlling dominance and astute ambition for power and money; his mother's depression and devastation at the failure of a western country, Canada, whose expectations she held towards were far too high in estimation compared to her real immigrant experience; and his sister's radical extremism in feminist theory and racial equality--Shivan is often a victim of emotional liminality and displacement, marginalized in his culture and experience not only by being both Tamil and Sinhalese, but more importantly a Sri Lankan-born boy who immigrates to Toronto, Canada as a refugee and eventually becomes a westernized Torontonian and later, a Vancouver resident, open and active in the LGBT community.

The richness in this novel is found in the author's ability to write with an eloquence and ease that give his characters resounding depth, authenticity, and a vulnerability, which readers can eagerly connect to and appreciate.
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Format: Hardcover
This is Shyam's best book to date! After finishing the book, I felt like I was grieving for the characters. Beautiful and wonderful. I highly recommend this book
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase

I had to read this book for a class, and to sum it up in one word: terrible! First, much of this book simply drags on with his everyday life, jumping around different time periods confusing the reader while going into far much detail setting up backstories. The only part of the book that was really engaging was near the end of Part Three (which is why I am giving it two stars instead of one), but the climatic writing here quickly falls back into a bore for the final quarter.

I could overlook all this if the conclusion ties everything up nicely, but it does not. Instead of realizing his deceased lover would want him to be happy or having him or his family seek therapy to deal with their conflicts, he decides to let his unhappiness control him. That is what I grinded through over 300 pages for?!
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Format: Kindle Edition
This finely crafted, richly sensual novel brings to life the complicated political tensions in Sri Lanka, the immigrant experience in Canada, the realities of gay sexualities in both countries and the dynamics that bind and threaten to destroy our most important relationships. Structured around Buddhist mythology, karma plays out its turn in these pages right to the end. My experience of reading this novel was enhanced by the opportunity to hear the author read from this book and talk about his ongoing work in Sri Lanka. One of the finest Canadian novels I have read in years.
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