On Sal Mal Lane: A Novel [NOOK Book]

Overview


In the tradition of In the Time of the Butterflies and The Kite Runner, a tender, evocative novel about the years leading up to the Sri Lankan civil war
 * A Library Journal Best Indie Fiction of 2013 * A Largehearted Boy Best Book of the Year * On the day the Herath family moves in, Sal Mal Lane is still a quiet street, disturbed only by the cries of the children whose triumphs and tragedies sustain the families that live there. As the neighbors adapt to the ...
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On Sal Mal Lane: A Novel

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Overview


In the tradition of In the Time of the Butterflies and The Kite Runner, a tender, evocative novel about the years leading up to the Sri Lankan civil war
 * A Library Journal Best Indie Fiction of 2013 * A Largehearted Boy Best Book of the Year * On the day the Herath family moves in, Sal Mal Lane is still a quiet street, disturbed only by the cries of the children whose triumphs and tragedies sustain the families that live there. As the neighbors adapt to the newcomers in different ways, the children fill their days with cricket matches, romantic crushes, and small rivalries. But the tremors of civil war are mounting, and the conflict threatens to engulf them all.
     In a heartrending novel poised between the past and the future, the innocence of the children—a beloved sister and her overprotective siblings, a rejected son and his twin sisters, two very different brothers—contrasts sharply with the petty prejudices of the adults charged with their care. In Ru Freeman’s masterful hands, On Sal Mal Lane, a story of what was lost to a country and her people, becomes a resounding cry for reconciliation.
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Editorial Reviews

The New York Times Book Review - Cristina García
…this rich, sensory novel…is a…rewarding portrait of a community of families on a dead-end road in Colombo, [Sri Lanka's] capital…As she did in her graceful first novel, A Disobedient Girl, Freeman delineates the divergent worlds of young and old with great sensitivity.
Publishers Weekly
Political activist and journalist Freeman’s second novel (after A Disobedient Girl) is set in early ’80s Colombo, Sri Lanka, at the start of the civil war between the Sinhalese government and Tamil Tigers. Sal Mal Lane, named for its trees, is home to Tamils, Sinhalese, and mixed-race Burgher families whose children, aware of what separates them, still enjoy a normal life (cricket matches, romantic longings, a musical show), though Freeman never lets it be forgotten that tragedy looms. The Sinhalese Herath children take piano lessons with a Tamil teacher and befriend her ailing father. The strange Raju, a young Tamil man, looks after Devi, the youngest Herath—a neighborhood favorite. The Silva family’s two boys want to join the army to fight the Tigers, and Tamil boy Sonna Bolling feels so alienated that he falls in with thugs. When violence finally arrives, Sonna tries to stop it but is instead blamed—with devastating consequences. Sustaining adult interest in young protagonists is Harper Lee–hard, and had this saga—which is three-quarters foreboding, one-quarter violent, heartbreaking denouement—been more concise, it could almost have been called a masterpiece. Agent: Julie Barer, Barer Literary. (May)
From the Publisher
Praise for On Sal Mal Lane:

"[A] rich, sensory novel. . . . 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. . . . The novel soars [with] its sensory beauty, language and humor." —Cristina Garcia, The New York Times Book Review

"Freeman's powerful second novel focuses on ordinary children living their lives as war clouds build." —People, "Great Reads"

"Piercingly intelligent and shatter-your-heart profound, Ru Freeman's On Sal Mal Lane is as luminous as it is wrenching, as fierce as it is generous. This is a riveting, important, beauty of a book." —Cheryl Strayed, author of Wild and Tiny Beautiful Things

"[Freeman's] individual characters are nuanced and richly written—you wish you could just stay on their peaceful lane forever, but of course you can't, and neither can they." —Oprah.com, "Book of the Week"

"Freeman draws all of her characters artfully as she uses her lane and its inhabitants to reflect a larger, troubled world. . . . Not entirely pessimistic about human nature, Freeman even holds out a faint hope for reconciliation, in well-directed words of kindness." —The Miami Herald

"I finished the novel . . . with a deeper respect for the human spirit, despite what politics, violence, and loss can do to it." —The Millions

"On Sal Mal Lane succeeds, gathering gravitas and emotional depth. . . . Freeman makes it a choice reading destination." —Newsday

"Ru Freeman's On Sal Mal Lane is stupendous. . . . With prose both lingering and breathtaking" —Terry Hong, Bookslut

"On Sal Mal Lane does not whittle war down to statistics or gory clashes; instead, it provokes deeper discussion of its manifestations and complexities by chronicling the lives of ordinary citizens living in pre-war Sri Lanka . . . It's the kind of book that makes your heart sink with every turn of the page, continually transforming your perspective on true love and loss. . . . Beautifully composed." —PopMatters, 9 out of 10 stars

"Lovingly written, historically rich and compassionate to all sides of the turmoil." —Kirkus Reviews

"Freeman's gift for verisimilitude is manifest with searing clarity . . . And in fictionalizing Sri Lankan history, Freeman accomplishes what reportage alone cannot: she blends the journalist's loyalty to fact with impassioned imagination." —Booklist

"Freeman is a tender writer, deftly weaving culture, history and, yes, redemption into a story with a range of rich, earned feeling. It's highly likely that readers will close the book with a different outlook on life, love, and loss." —ForeWord Reviews

"Deeply moving and brilliant. . . . A vivid, beautiful and deeply tragic tale of the families that live on the lane and the ethnic divisions that ultimately destroy the fragile harmony of the lane and the country of Sri Lanka as a whole. . . . Devi reminds me of Scout from To Kill a Mockinbird and Swede from Peace Like a River, small girls who make very large impressions, and I'm sure that On Sal Mal Lane will join their ranks as a new perennial favorite of booksellers, librarians and of course, readers." —Cathy Langer, Tattered Cover

"Loss of innocence is probably a universal mark of coming-of-age, but much of the innocence lost in Ru Freeman's captivating On Sal Mal Lane, shouldn't be visited upon young people, or any people for that matter. This beautiful novel gives us children of a Sri Lankan lane at a certain historical moment. . . . Utter heartbreak is here—for the rapacious violence and madness of the world does come—and smile-as-you-read passages of larger spirits and powers being realized to the better. Ru Freeman's excellent A Disobedient Girl is now followed by a major leap up in accomplishment, empathy, artistry." —Rick Simonson, Elliott Bay Book Company

"An elegaic and powerful portrait of a troubled time. Ru Freeman beautifully interweaves humanity and history, creating a wise, thought-provoking and deeply felt novel." —Madeline Miller, winner of the Orange Prize for The Song of Achilles

"On Sal Mal Lane is a finely-wrought sculpture of the capillary systems by which nihilism and violence travel from the political realm to the intimate, and back again." —Rana Dasgupta, author of Solo

"Ru Freeman has written the masterwork of Sri Lanka's bellum civile, a novel that patiently and lucidly witnesses the daily lives of children on a single lane as the violence builds. There are no acronyms, no convoluted battles, no dreary expository detours. This is a civil war about a garden wall, a cricket game, a bicycle ride, music lessons, the shopkeeper that won't sell to you anymore and a teenager choosing between the house of one friend or another's to burn. It distills one of the last century's most complicated wars into what it really was on the ground—the everyday reality of that timeless threat, the neighbor turned killer." —Lorraine Adams, Pulitzer Prize winner and author of The Room and The Chair

Library Journal
As in Freeman's absorbing 2009 debut, A Disobedient Girl, the intricate lives of young children also take center stage in this latest work. In 1979, the titular Sal Mal Lane is a cul-de-sac on the outskirts of Sri Lanka's largest city and former capital, Colombo. The Herath family's arrival with four young children—Suren the musician, Rashmi the singer, Nihil the cricketer, and baby Devi the favored—reshuffles friendships and alliances along the lane. Beyond the safety of this quiet enclave, the rest of the country is at an impasse: ethnic, religious, and political differences stir among a population long plagued by divisions and colonizations. War looms, and tragedy proves inevitable: "Everyone who lived on Sal Mal Lane was implicated in what happened…while this story is about small people, we must consider the fact that their history is long and accord them, too, a story equal to their past." VERDICT Dates and events ground the novel specifically in Sri Lanka, but the universal narrative of family remains borderless. As witness and storyteller, Freeman never falters, revealing "what happened" with clarity and resolve in prose both lingering and breathtaking. The result is simply stupendous.—Terry Hong, Smithsonian BookDragon, Washington, DC
Kirkus Reviews
Sri Lanka erupted into violence in the 1980s, with people identifying themselves as Tamil or Sinhalese, Hindu or Buddhist, Burgher or Muslim--the conflicts brewed over language policies, territories and curfews. Against this backdrop of sociopolitical unrest, Freeman (A Disobedient Girl, 2009) sets her second novel. The inhabitants of Sal Mal Lane, like a constellation of stars, orbit around the Herath family, whose house is in the middle of the street and whose matriarch embraces the songs and customs of many religions. A devout Buddhist, she nonetheless teaches her children to sing Christian hymns in four-part harmony. Gravity draws first the attention of Mr. Niles, who discerns a troubled soul through Nihil's uncertain voice; then Sonna Bolling, a bully and political thug-in-waiting; then the Silvas, whose own matriarch embraces every bias and prejudice; and later Raju, whose ugly face belies his lovely heart. Utterly devoted to his younger sister, Devi, Nihil negotiates the world of Sal Mal Lane and beyond, learning about Mr. Niles' previous war experience, which has left him chastened, aware that racial distinctions blur, and frightened to witness the rising turmoil. Slowly, the tensions ratchet up. Sonna joins an anti-Tamil gang, and violence intrudes into everyone's lives. Yet, the event that brings everyone to their knees has nothing to do with Tamil-Sinhalese tensions and everything to do with the pointless loss of innocent life. Freeman establishes her narrator in the prologue as the air, the road, the dreams that bind her characters together. The technique may weave the characters more closely, but it also distances the narrator and the reader from woes that befall Nihil, Devi, Sonna, Raju and their families. Lovingly written, historically rich and compassionate to all sides of the turmoil, this tale is also frustratingly distant, leaving the reader sympathetic but not fully engaged.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781555970727
  • Publisher: Graywolf Press
  • Publication date: 5/14/2013
  • Sold by: Macmillan
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 410
  • Sales rank: 129,957
  • File size: 2 MB

Meet the Author

Ru Freeman

Ru Freeman is the author of A Disobedient Girl. She is an activist and journalist whose work appears internationally. She calls both Sri Lanka and America home.
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 5
( 16 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(14)

4 Star

(2)

3 Star

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Sort by: Showing all of 17 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 8, 2013

    Mad_World Reveiw TO ALL

    Really great! That book is cool beans! Continue!
    <p> ~Mad_World
    <p> P.S. read my story at 'the other side' res 1-3 thx!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 5, 2013

    Awesomesauce

    U killed it. Great fanfic person. U should right more.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 4, 2013

    Oh no

    Good

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 4, 2013

    MIKE DID WIN

    I WATCHED IT TODAY AND MIKE WON AND THE ISLAND SINKS!!!!

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 3, 2013

    MIKE WON!!!!!!

    In the end Mike took back over and then he won

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 3, 2013

    MAL a total drama fanfic.

    This is a take on what would have happened if Mal had taken permenant control when Mike was hit with Scott's shovel. <p> Mike's pov <br> The last thing I remember was the shovel, Manitoba must have lost control when it hit me. It hit me. I must have blacked out when that had happened. I opened my eyes and quickly realized that I wasn't on the beach. I took a step forward and felt a tug on my leg. Looking down, I discovered a thick, metal chain clasped around my ankel. It was connected to a large boulder that looked faintly familiar. "Hello?" Panic rose in my voice as I called out, "Zoey? Cam? Manitoba? Chester? Anyone? Help!" <br> "They can't hear you," I whirled around clumsily. Gasping, I found myself staring at a copy of me, but with dark eyes and hair covering one. <br> "Mal," I hissed. <br> "At your service," he bowed mockingly. <br> "What are you doing. Let me go!" I lunged at him, but fell short when the chain's length deminished. <br> "Let you go?" He smirked, "Oh no. The fun is just beginning." He smiled and flipped his hair up to replicate mine and coughed, "no one will be able to tell the difference." My heart began to pick up speed as I realized that he had changed his voice to replicate mine. <br> "Please, Mal. You can't do this-" I was interrupted as he disappeared. I sighed and disheartedly yanked on the chain. It didn't budge. It was then that Mal's words sank in, my eyes widened and I called out into the emptiness, "I'm doomed. They're all doomed." <p> Mal's pov <br> Mike was smart, I'll give him that. But even he couldn't expect what I was planning on doing. I heard a girl's voice above me, I think Mike called her Zoey, "Please be ok. Mike!" I cracked open my eyes and found her hovering over me. I coughed, "um, yeah, I'm fine. Just help me up." She obliged and I surveyed my surroundings. I was on a beach, large, with two platforms, one on either side. There were holes everywhere and others were digging frantically. "C'mon. We only have two more pieces to find," Zoey smiled <br> Pieces, right. I had viewed from the inside that the campers were competing in a treasure challenge. <br> I turned as a male spoke, "Well now, look who's awake," a boy with red hair smirked with me. <br> "Zoey, go ahead," I looked at the boy, Scott, "I need to talk to him." She nodded. I smiled and turned to him, "you better watch your back because one by one, you will all fall, and I'll try my best to make you go first." <br> READ RATE AND REVIEW! ch 2 will b in the next result

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 10, 2013

    Starlightshimmet

    "Does anyone know what this prophecy is about?"

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 12, 2013

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 11, 2013

    Natsu to Timepool

    Want to start a Clan?

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 12, 2013

    Tigerscar

    Sorry but im not talking about you. She will unleash what you call tryers. There true name is nichevo'ya

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 10, 2013

    Luckkit

    No result 4

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 9, 2013

    Darkoak

    Out of no where rocks fell onto a stranger cat who was following them. She had redorange fur. Like the trees.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 12, 2013

    Tellerkit

    Im herw im here

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 18, 2013

    Ryne

    Your rex im not apoligizing

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 19, 2013

    Alisha

    Woke up.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 18, 2013

    Tyler

    He walked in. He had soft blonde hair that swept to one side and baby blue eyes. He was well muscled and had a six pack. "Hi." He said smiling.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 8, 2013

    No text was provided for this review.

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