Half Gods by Akil Kumarasamy
Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2018.
Kumarasamy’s debut novel, Half Gods, is best described as a beautiful mosaic – a collection of small gems that are arranged to create one stunning piece. While there is beauty in each individual piece, it is only when you stand back to look at the created whole that you become captivated with its richness and depth. Breathtaking.
Half Gods is in fact, a compilation of interconnected stories or scenes, told from several different characters – in a variety of viewpoints, locations and time periods. And while each individual story is crafted beautifully, and stands on its own — they build on one another magically, filling in the pieces ever-so-gradually, creating both mystery and intimacy. At the center of these stories is one family — exiled from their home during the Sri Lankan civil war after an act of violence rips them apart. But despite the years, and regardless of how miles they are from Sri Lanka, the horrors and the trauma of the war continue to haunt them through the generations.
Initially I found the piece somewhat jarring, as the stories move back and forth in time, and across space [New Jersey, Kentucky, a colonial Ceylon tea plantation, a Sri Lankan village]. I struggled to string together the connections, burdened with my own ignorance of the history of the situation. But in hindsight, Kumarasamy’s approach is brilliant. The discordant tone of the novel mirroring reality —how one traumatic, violent act disrupts time, dismantles the self, and jolts you into a harsh and unsettled life. I repeat, breathtaking.
This is a book to be savored, best enjoyed sipping a cup of tea (or a glass of wine). Click below to find a local bookstore where you can purchase this one, as you’ll want a copy of your own, and maybe one to share.