Wednesday, July 24, 2013

The Beach at Galle Road: Stories from Sri Lanka by Joanna Luloff (2012)

The Beach at Galle Road: Stories from Sri Lanka, the debut book by Joanna Luloff (2012), was one of my recent finds through the LibraryThing Early Reviewers program. I've found that debut short story collections can be pretty hit or miss, and I was pleasantly surprised to discover that this one fell on the hit side of the equation.

Luloff gives us a collection of loosely interconnected stories that can either stand alone or be read as a single piece. The wide variety of protagonists (including old women, young mothers, teenage girls, little boys, adult men, and young American men and women serving in the Peace Corp in Sri Lanka) adds variety and depth to the book, but a theme of isolation, longing, and regret ties the wildly different lives of our different narrators together.

Luloff's book takes place in pre-tsunami Sri Lanka, much of it right in the middle of the breathtakingly violent civil war between the Sinhalese government and the Tamil insurgency. While there are elements of humor, love, and peace throughout the book, the circumstances of the country crawl deep into the lives of the characters. The arc of the book moves us masterfully into the final perfectly tragic story -- one of the most upsetting in the book -- where the lead character ultimately earns her twisted triumph, but it doesn't make the reader quite as happy as it makes her.

Definitely recommended, and I'll be very interested to see what Luloff does next.

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