Sam’s Story by Elmo Jayawardena

Earlier this month, Bob Herbert wrote in the New York Times about the price of war, and why it continues to be easy to wage

The reason it is so easy for the U.S. to declare wars, and to continue fighting year after year after year, is because so few Americans feel the actual pain of those wars. We’ve been fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan longer than we fought in World Wars I and II combined. If voters had to choose right now between instituting a draft or exiting Afghanistan and Iraq, the troops would be out of those two countries in a heartbeat.

War everywhere exacts a disproportionate toll on the poor, and Sri Lanka is no exception. In this brilliant and nuanced debut novel, Elmo Jayawardena tells the story of the civil war that has raged for decades, and its impact on everyday life. Set in the turn of the century, it paints a nuanced and moving portrait of Sam, a simpleton who comes to ‘River House’ to work as a houseboy, and the world as he perceives it. A compact and powerful novella, it succeeds in converting a politicized conflict of ‘One’ vs the ‘Other’ into a personal, intimate one. As the protagonist says towards the end of the story,

..the fighting and the war had become very personal… It had crossed all the barriers that divided us and had come life a thief to our River House

One of the most absorbing books I’ve read all year!

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