BookBrowse Reviews Homesick by Roshi Fernando

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reading Guide |  Reviews |  Beyond the book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

Homesick

by Roshi Fernando

Homesick by Roshi Fernando X
Homesick by Roshi Fernando
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • First Published:
    Jul 2012, 288 pages
    Paperback:
    Jul 2013, 288 pages

    Genres

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
Poornima Apte
Buy This Book

About this Book

Reviews

BookBrowse:


A stunning debut about an extended Sri Lankan family's immigrant life in England

The immigrant experience has always been ripe territory for literature, but one must proceed with caution. It is easy for writers to get overly sentimental when nostalgia takes hold, and clichés often dominate romanticized narratives. Fortunately, the immensely talented Roshi Fernando avoids these traps in her spectacular debut, Homesick, which chronicles the Sri Lankan immigrant experience in England.

Although this book is really a collection of tightly interconnected short stories, it wouldn't be too much of a stretch to call it a novel. And while each chapter or story stands on its own, it does help the narrative to read the book from beginning to end without jumps. The opening story, Homesick, sets the stage by introducing the principal characters who reappear as the book progresses. Primary among these is Preethi, who, as the story opens, is a teenager getting her first taste of rebellion at a family party hosted by her father. With many characters moving in and out, this first story is a tad confusing and awkward in its execution, but persistence pays. Fernando quickly finds her groove, and the rest of the book is close to flawless.

Fernando does a fantastic job of capturing the isolation and displacement that are an essential part of the immigrant experience. Her strength lies in her ability to portray keen insights with the slightest touch. She doesn't need any grand drama to bring out vulnerabilities in her characters. Instead, small details pack a strong punch and drive home her message just as effectively. In one of many superbly eloquent chapters, a Sri Lankan nanny gets lost while on the way to dropping Preethi off at school. The houses and the streets all look similar, not distinct and unique as they might have in Sri Lanka. The fear gets compounded when they chance upon a white woman, and the nanny doesn't know how to ask for help. Instead she pushes her little charge, Preethi, forward hoping the young one will make the case for the two of them. Vignettes like these bring to mind another great chronicler of the immigrant narrative, Jhumpa Lahiri. Just like Lahiri, Fernando uses her keen observation skills to craft touching and powerful stories.

My favorite sketch in Homesick is "Sophocles' Chorus," in which Preethi goes through the blush of first love. The giddiness, the letdown, the disillusionment and the eventual embrace of reality are all so brilliantly executed by Fernando that it is hard to believe this is her debut novel.

Where Homesick falters is in its story of a young Muslim immigrant who embraces less than desirable outcomes as a way out of an oppressive childhood. His eventual path back to normalcy involves one too many neat coincidences, and the story seems a tad contrived. Toward the end of the book, Preethi visits Sri Lanka and somehow manages to get involved in the country's civil war. This part too feels out of place; it's as if Fernando felt the compulsion to address the weighty theme in some way and couldn't quite manage a better fit. She is much better when she uses a light touch in showing cultural mores that are completely Sri Lankan. Descriptions of an immigrant man's love for his cricket team and glimpses of a Sri Lankan wedding in England say much more about the country than more dense themes do.

In the end, Homesick emerges as a moving and powerful novel about Sri Lankans in England. In showcasing her characters' everyday anxieties and triumphs, Fernando effectively portrays a slice of humanity we can all - immigrants or not - identify with readily. It is this empathy that Fernando manages to elicit from her readers and that makes Homesick such a compelling, triumphant debut.

Reviewed by Poornima Apte

This review was originally published in The BookBrowse Review in July 2012, and has been updated for the July 2013 edition. Click here to go to this issue.

This review is available to non-members for a limited time. For full access become a member today.
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $12 for 3 months or $39 for a year.
  • More about membership!

Beyond the Book:
  The Game of Cricket

Join BookBrowse

Become a Member and discover books that entertain, engage & enlighten.

Find out more


Today's Top Picks

  • Book Jacket: Yolk
    Yolk
    by Mary Choi
    Mary H.K. Choi's young adult offering Yolk deftly maintains several plotlines running through the ...
  • Book Jacket: The Blizzard Party
    The Blizzard Party
    by Jack Livings
    It is 1978 and the place is New York City. A massive bacchanalian party is taking place at an Upper ...
  • Book Jacket: The Light of Days
    The Light of Days
    by Judy Batalion
    Renia, Sarah, Zivia, Frumka, Hantze, Tosia, Vladka, Chajka, Gusta, Hela, Bela, Lonka, Tema, Chasia, ...
  • Book Jacket: Hummingbird Salamander
    Hummingbird Salamander
    by Jeff VanderMeer
    In Hummingbird Salamander, Jeff VanderMeer weaves cybersecurity, bioterrorism, wildlife trafficking ...

Readers Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    The Widow Queen
    by Elzbieta Cherezinska

    The epic story of an 11th century Polish queen whose life and name were all but forgotten until now.

    Reader Reviews
  • Book Jacket

    Of Women and Salt
    by Gabriela Garcia

    A kaleidoscopic portrait of generations of women from a 19th-century Cuban cigar factory to the present day.

    Reader Reviews
Book Club Discussion
Book Jacket
Miss Austen
by Gill Hornby
A witty, poignant novel about Cassandra Austen and her famous sister, Jane.
Win This Book!
Win The Beauty of Your Face

A New York Times Notable Book of 2020

"Stunning.… A timely family saga with faith and forgiveness at its core."
Marie Claire

Enter

Wordplay

Solve this clue:

It's N S O M N

and be entered to win..

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends the best in contemporary fiction and nonfiction—books that not only engage and entertain but also deepen our understanding of ourselves and the world around us.