The Hungry Ghosts by Shyam SelvaduraiThe Hungry Ghosts by Shyam Selvadurai

The Hungry Ghosts

byShyam Selvadurai

Hardcover | January 11, 2017

Pricing and Purchase Info

$10.00 online 
$29.95 list price save 66%
Earn 50 plum® points

Prices and offers may vary in store


In stock online

Ships free on orders over $25

Available in stores


In Buddhist myth, the dead may be reborn as "hungry ghosts"—spirits with stomach so large they can never be full—if they have desired too much during their lives. It is the duty of the living relatives to free those doomed to this fate by doing kind deeds and creating good karma. In Shyam Selvadurai’s sweeping new novel, his first in more than a decade, he creates an unforgettable ghost, a powerful Sri Lankan matriarch whose wily ways, insatiable longing for land, houses, money and control, and tragic blindness to the human needs of those around her parallels the volatile political situation of her war-torn country.
The novel centres around Shivan Rassiah, the beloved grandson, who is of mixed Tamil and Sinhalese lineage, and who also—to his grandmother’s dismay—grows from beautiful boy to striking gay man. As the novel opens in the present day, Shivan, now living in Canada, is preparing to travel back to Colombo, Sri Lanka, to rescue his elderly and ailing grandmother, to remove her from the home—now fallen into disrepair—that is her pride, and bring her to Toronto to live our her final days. But throughout the night and into the early morning hours of his departure, Shivan grapples with his own insatiable hunger and is haunted by unrelenting ghosts of his own creation.
The Hungry Ghosts is a beautifully written, dazzling story of family, wealth and the long reach of the past. It shows how racial, political and sexual differences can tear apart both a country and the human heart—not just once, but many times, until the ghosts are fed and freed.

SHYAM SELVADURAI is the acclaimed author of the novels Funny Boy, which was shortlisted for the Giller Prize, won the Books in Canada First Novel Award and was a national bestseller, and Cinnamon Gardens, which was shortlisted for the Trillium Award and sold around the world. He has also written a novel for young adults, Swimming in th...
Title:The Hungry GhostsFormat:HardcoverProduct dimensions:384 pages, 9.5 × 6.53 × 1.31 inShipping dimensions:9.5 × 6.53 × 1.31 inPublished:January 11, 2017Language:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0385670664

ISBN - 13:9780385670661


Rated 5 out of 5 by from Loved it! My Favorite author. Covers Sri Lanka Race riots, being gay and immigration to Canada. An excellent read! Only $5 right now- great price!
Date published: 2018-07-24
Rated 4 out of 5 by from What a story! A nice addition to your collection.
Date published: 2017-03-30
Rated 5 out of 5 by from The Hungry Ghosts Really enjoyed this book not to sure about the ending
Date published: 2014-04-24
Rated 4 out of 5 by from The Hungry Ghosts The story shifts occasionally between past, a more distant past, and present, which made it confusing in the beginning, but becomes a non-issue once you're familiar with the author's pattern. Personal, relatable, and very real characters who offer nuanced perspective of how gender, age and upbringing affect one's experience as a Sri Lankan and later on, a Sri Lankan immigrant to Canada. A powerful critic and observation of the radical and liberal university types in Canada. The Buddhist and Hindu stories evoked by the story's protagonist offer rich insight into Sri Lankan culture and world view. A great read.
Date published: 2014-01-25
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Book Review from The Bibliotaphe Closet: The Hungry Ghosts by Shyam Selvadurai "The Hungry Ghosts" by Shyam Selvadurai is an exquisitely rich story about Shivan Rassiah, a young boy born from poverty and the weight of a burdened past that originally stems from an abrasive grandmother that poisons her lineage to create a wilful and eventually rebellious daughter—and the fate of her belief in her own terrible karma. Amidst the turmoil of a divided Sri Lanka where the tensions between the Tamils and Sinhalese people are a vivid and violent backdrop to the tensions between Shivan’s estranged grandmother and mother and the sides he is forced to choose from in order for his family to survive—Shivan also grows, discovers, and explores his own sexuality as a gay man and battles against the intolerance of his homosexuality by his Sri Lankan culture and community. Between his grandmother’s controlling dominance and astute ambition for power and money; his mother’s depression and devastation at the failure of a western country, Canada, whose expectations she held towards were far too high in estimation compared to her real immigrant experience; and his sister’s radical extremism in feminist theory and racial equality—Shivan is often a victim of emotional liminality and displacement, marginalized in his culture and experience not only by being both Tamil and Sinhalese, but more importantly a Sri Lankan-born boy who immigrates to Toronto, Canada as a refugee and eventually becomes a westernized Torontonian and later, a Vancouver resident, open and active in the LGBT community. The richness in this novel is found in the author’s ability to write with an eloquence and ease that give his characters resounding depth, authenticity, and a vulnerability, which readers can eagerly connect to and appreciate. And the emotional landscape of the novel’s characters are not static, nor linear, but like life, mimic the fluctuation of people who change their minds over time and over a number of experiences. The cultural translations of Buddhists stories also enrich the novel in metaphor and Sri Lankan culture, as well as intensify the substance of the novel’s characters. But, the novel is not just entirely character-driven. The plot, too, is rich as it is turbulent and engaging. The capacity in which characters can love is just as passionate as their ability to hate and condemn, which drive them to illogical and unthinkable acts of cruelty. The plot, filled with the torment of conflict and anguish, create an emotionally charged and gripping tale that will move readers to empathy and reflection about the importance of resisting exclusivity, answering the issues of cultural displacement, and advocating racial and gender equality, while defining the ideas of love and home. Overall, "The Hungry Ghosts" by Shyam Selvadurai is a beautifully written book, full of substance and dichotomy, tenderness and heartache, tension and cruelty—a book that is so gloriously good, I couldn’t put it down—and still mourn the loss I feel in turning its very last pages. A book like this is one is one in which you befriend its fictional characters in your reading and then miss them severely, feeling a loss at having to accept that though the story does not end, the book itself, has to. The Hungry Ghosts by this gifted and mature writer will inevitably leave its readers hungering for more.
Date published: 2013-06-06
Rated 2 out of 5 by from THE HUNGRY GHOSTS Started off strong and interesting then became some sappy love story. Boring!!
Date published: 2013-05-26
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Dark, Hot Tropical, and disturbing. Taut, dreamy.
Date published: 2013-04-21
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Very Good I thought this book was really well done. The story was extremely interesting and created a sense of what it might feel like to never feel at home anywhere. Also a very eye-opening perspective on Canadian behaviour. My only criticism would be that on occasion the dialogue did not ring true, seeming as though people were talking with a thesaurus in their hands....if that makes any sense.
Date published: 2013-03-07

Editorial Reviews

“Shyam Selvadurai returns with [a] novel of raw human longing. . . . his stripped-down prose focuses on the deeply personal with precision and insight. . . . All of Selvadurai’s characters are nuanced with motivations that stem not from their political or ethnic roles, but from raw human longing. . . . Selvadurai’s work reminds me that the contemporary novel doesn’t necessarily have to resort to thrills or high jinks in order to find its usefulness. Here, it unforgettably explores the interplay between individual intention and the tragedy of a nation’s history.” —The Globe and Mail “This young romance, like something out of an Edmund White novel, is beautifully and powerfully imagined. . . . Calling to mind the work of Indo-American writer Jhumpa Lahiri, Selvadurai does an excellent job contrasting Sri Lanka and Canada.” —Winnipeg Free Press “From his debut novel, 1994’s Funny Boy, to his latest, The Hungry Ghosts, [Selvadurai’s] meditated on his birth country’s fraught mélange of history, politics and religion while developing a style that’s anything but bare bones and laconic.” —The National Post“Both Shivan’s story and Sri Lanka’s rich history are told through simple yet evocative prose, and Selvadurai’s first-person narrative, with its modernized Dickensian tone, is an effective storytelling device. . . . The Hungry Ghosts is an accomplished, resonant novel. The solid characters and diverse events, the Sri Lankan and Torontonian flavours, and the poetic conclusion will leave readers feeling as though they’ve lived a thousand and one stories, and lacked for little.” —Quill & Quire “Moving seamlessly across time and place, the narrative contemplates karma, the belief that past misdeeds can generate spiritual debts that shackle future outcomes. . . . Rendered in visceral detail, locale plays a significant role here: Colombo, Toronto, and Vancouver each possess their own unique temperament. . . . The Hungry Ghosts is lustrous in its depictions of duty, dislocation, and the ways love and relationships haunt the human heart.” —Georgia Straight“An epic novel. . . . [that] adds a new maturity of tone, scope, language and character.” —Montreal Gazette“The Hungry Ghosts [is] a haunting story of longing, family ties and forgiveness. . . . Compelling.” —Times Colonist