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The Beach at Galle Road: Stories from Sri Lanka
     

The Beach at Galle Road: Stories from Sri Lanka

by Joanna Luloff
 

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When rumors of civil war between the ruling Sinhalese and the Tamils in the northern sector of Sri Lanka reach those who live in the south, somehow it seems not to be happening in their own country. At least not until Janaki’s sister, Lakshmi—now a refugee whose husband, a Tamil, has disappeared—comes back to live with her family. And when Sam, an

Overview

When rumors of civil war between the ruling Sinhalese and the Tamils in the northern sector of Sri Lanka reach those who live in the south, somehow it seems not to be happening in their own country. At least not until Janaki’s sister, Lakshmi—now a refugee whose husband, a Tamil, has disappeared—comes back to live with her family. And when Sam, an American Peace Corps worker who boards with Janaki’s family, falls in love with one of his students, a young girl from the north, he, too, becomes acutely aware of the dangers that exist for any- one who gets drawn into the conflict, however marginally.

Skillfully weaving together the stories of these and other intersecting lives, The Beach at Galle Road explores themes of memory and identity amid the consequences of the Sri Lankan civil war. From different points of view, across generations and geographies, it pits the destructive power of war against the resilient power of family, individual will, and the act of storytelling itself.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
The long-term civil war in northern Sri Lanka rages between the Tamils and the Sinhalese in Luloff's debut collection of interwoven stories. Rather than focus on key belligerents, Luloff trains her eye on those caught in the rough wake of war. Janaki is a young woman who spends her days selling flowers and tending to her garden, children, and ailing mother-in-law. In another narrative thread, Sam, an American Peace Corps volunteer boarding at Janaki's home, falls for one of his students—the graceful and vibrant Nalanthi. But when Janaki's sister, Lakshmi, returns home from the conflict-zone following her Tamil husband's disappearance, rumblings from the north begin to disrupt Janaki and co.'s domestic peace. What begins as a flirtatious courtship between Sam and Nalanthi and a warm welcome home for a long lost sibling quickly devolves as the chaos of war draws Luloff's characters into turmoil. However, while the plights of Janaki's household resonate emotionally, an underdeveloped plot—further disjointed by the book's organization into stories—requires readers to fill in where Luloff fails to deliver. Agent: Christopher Vyce, The Brattle Agency. (Oct.)
Kirkus Reviews
In her debut, Luloff weaves a montage of stories into a cohesive whole as she explores the roles of tradition and family and the destructive power of war through the lives of each character. With simplicity, the author, a former Peace Corps volunteer, gives voices to those who've been touched, however remotely, by a conflict that lasted for decades and destroyed the fabric of a country. Mohan, Janaki and their two daughters live a comfortable family-oriented life in Baddegama, a village in southern Sri Lanka, and pay scant attention to the struggle occurring between Tamil insurgents and the Sinhalese government. The skirmishes are taking place in the northern section of their country, so it's had little impact on their lives. But not so for Lakshmi, Janaki's older sister: Her husband, Sunil, a Tamil sympathizer, disappeared from the streets of Colombo in 1987, and now Lakshmi is returning to her family, a person incontrovertibly different from the girl Janaki once knew. Peace Corps volunteer Sam, a boarder in Janaki's home, falls in love with a student from the north and insists on staying in the country even though his visiting parents pressure him to leave. And other volunteers, whether for altruistic reasons, adventure or escape, journey to Sri Lanka to find purpose or refuge along the beautiful beaches or in mountain retreats. Like Lucy, who manages an International Aid rest home, some discover that fulfilling a desire for adventure can lead to witnessing unimaginable horrors. Perhaps the most affecting tale is the story of Nilanthi, a brilliant young teaching candidate and the object of volunteer Sam's love. When the violence causes her program to shut down, she returns home to her parents, three brothers and best friend, Sunitha. What follows is a study of societal barriers, family dynamics and individual strength. Each story is subtly presented and, for the most part, disturbingly believable.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781565129214
Publisher:
Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill
Publication date:
10/02/2012
Pages:
288
Product dimensions:
5.86(w) x 8.32(h) x 1.03(d)

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher
“In The Beach at Galle Road, Joanna Luloff portrays, with exquisite passion and restraint, the troubled history of Sri Lanka. Writing from the point of view of young and old, Sri Lankans and Americans, civilians and soldiers, Luloff takes us deep into a country and a culture. Together these wonderful stories form an intricate web in which we, her readers, are happily caught. The Beach at Galle Road is a wise and profoundly moving debut.”
—Margot Livesey, author of The Flight of Gemma Hardy

Meet the Author

Joanna Luloff received her MFA from Emerson College and is completing a PhD at the University of Missouri. She worked as Peace Corps volunteer in Sri Lanka from 1996 to 1998. Her stories have appeared in the Missouri Review, Confrontation, Memorious, and New South.

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