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
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.
"In my excitement to dive in to On Sal Mal Lane, the deeply moving and brilliant novel by Ru Freeman, I missed the map and list of families of the title lane. The map of the lane is a charming line drawing of the homes and gardens of the families about which this moving story is written. A lovely, protected enclave and exactly what I'd imagined while devouring this 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.
On Sal Mal Lane is based on Freeman's childhood. She grew up in Colombo, Sri Lanka and witnessed the ethnic tension between the Tamils and Sinhalese the escalated to a civil war that lasted 26 years and cost many tens of thousands of lives. This was a conflict that I heard about but honestly didn't really understand until now. Sal Mal Lane is a microcosm of Sri Lanka. The novel opens as the Herath family is moving in. They are middle class, educated, with four lively, lovely children, each one special and written with amazing heart and understanding of childhood. The youngest, Devi, is a bright, mischievous 7 year old born on an very inauspicious day. Her brother Nihil has taken it upon himself to keep her safe, a task that proves more difficult as both Devi and the conflict between the Tamils and Sinhalese grow. These children are just two of a bevy of amazingly realized characters that inhabit the very unforgettable Sal Mal Lane. Devi reminds me of Scout from To Kill A Mockingbird 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."
Every now and then we encounter a new book that we’re so excited about we want to shout it from the rooftops, so we've created a special tag to distinguish it from the rest: TC VIB (very impressive book)! That means it’s a true stand-out in a season of many excellent and compelling new books.