cover image Brotherless Night

Brotherless Night

V.V. Ganeshananthan. Random House, $28 (368p) ISBN 978-0-8129-9715-6

Ganeshananthan (Love Marriage) offers a searing and intimate depiction of the Sri Lankan civil war from the point of view of an aspiring doctor. In 1981, 15-year-old Sashi Kulenthiren is studying for her A Levels. Her father, a civil servant, works far from their home in Jaffna, leaving her, her mother, and four brothers on their own. After not earning high enough marks to enroll in medical school, Sashi nevertheless continues her studies. While living with her grandmother and older brother, Niranjan, growing separatist sentiment among the northern Tamils leads to riots, and Niranjan disappears. Later, Sashi wins admittance to medical school and there is recruited by her childhood neighbor and crush, K, to work in the makeshift infirmary for the cadres, and two of her brothers join the Tigers. Sashi also finds a mentor in Anjali, a former Tiger supporter who encourages her to start a feminist reading group. As both the Tigers and the Indian peacekeepers commit atrocities, and Sashi’s non-Tiger younger brother is detained by the government, she juggles an increasingly grueling schedule and her family urges her to immigrate to England. Ganeshananthan credibly captures the horrors and pain of the conflict felt by those caught between loyalties. It all makes for a convincing and illuminating war novel. Agent: Stephanie Cabot, Susanna Lea Assoc. (Jan.)