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Reviews of Sleeping Alone by Ru Freeman

Sleeping Alone


by Ru Freeman

Sleeping Alone by Ru Freeman X
Sleeping Alone by Ru Freeman
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     Not Yet Rated
  • Paperback:
    Jun 2022, 240 pages


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Book Reviewed by:
Valerie Morales
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About this Book

Book Summary

In this collection of rich and textured stories about crossing borders, both real and imagined, Sleeping Alone asks one of the fundamental questions of our times: What is the toll of feeling foreign in one's land, to others, or even to oneself?

A cast of misfits, young and old, single and coupled, even entire family units, confront startling changes wrought by difficult circumstances or harrowing choices.

These stories span the world, moving from Maine to Sri Lanka, from Dublin to Philadelphia, paying exquisite attention to the dance between the intimate details of our lives and our public selves.

Whether Ru Freeman, author of the novel On Sal Mal Lane, is capturing secrets kept by siblings in Sri Lanka, or the life of itinerants in New York City, she renders the nuances of her characters' lives with real sensitivity, and imbues them with surprising dignity and grace.

The Wake

What is truth? This is: Oric Boyar, a former actor, astrologist, voice coach, and charismatic cult leader, convinced his followers to help raise a dead man to life in a New York City apartment, keeping vigil over the decomposing corpse for two months.

The cult, which is what her father called it, and which term she herself feared it deserved, met every week now and only in the Swastika bedroom that she shared with her brother; which is why the corpse also had to lie there.

"Agapito says that this is the only room in which he has felt the divine vibrancies in the whole of New York," Rene, her mother, said on one of the early days.

Did he mean the whole of New York or only the city? And if it was the city alone, did it encompass the boroughs? Had he been in every loft and tenement? Her mother turned away from such questions, particularly when uttered by a husband who had already broken the only butter rule.

"Agapito says that we must eat no fish, flesh, or fowl and we must ...

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BookBrowse Review


It has often been said that the short story is a love affair while the novel is a marriage. You enter a short story and then you leave. You attach to the characters and their lives and then you dispose of them. But if short stories are about the weight of the human experience, then Freeman's collection is a great contribution to the genre. Born in Sri Lanka, she deftly handles elements of culture threaded through her African American, Caucasian, Irish and Sri Lankan protagonists. While reading, I had the sensation that someone was whispering in my ear about the people they met all over the world, the ones they were unable to forget...continued

Full Review (878 words)

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(Reviewed by Valerie Morales).

Media Reviews

Chicago Review of Books
Searing...While Freeman's prose has many virtues—she's masterful on a line level and utilizes effective narrative techniques in each story—it's her ability to highlight how lonely it is to not truly be seen that makes Sleeping Alone so remarkable.

Minneapolis Star Tribune
One or two stories peter out without having amounted to much. The rest of them are deftly constructed and vividly realized. The eponymous tale about a Middle Eastern immigrant intent on wreaking havoc ('I am the slim, slivered bone that buries itself in an unreachable part of your throat, just when you thought the chowder tasted good') shows that Freeman is capable of producing darker hues, and of disturbing and delighting in equal measure.

Booklist (starred review)
Set around the world and grappling with themes of race and class, Freeman's stories work precisely because they are full of the drama and the ordinariness of life. Here is proof that there is tragedy and beauty in the everyday; you just have to know where to look.

Publishers Weekly (starred review)
[A] delicate and vital debut collection...Freeman's charisma shines on each page of these beautiful stories. This is a treasure.

Kirkus Reviews
Each story is tightly structured and aimed to pierce through the reader's own sense of stability...Deceptively disturbing, deeply felt, and original.

Author Blurb Colum McCann, author of Apeirogon
Stand in the doorway of these beautiful stories and admire for a moment the architecture of how they have invited you in. Then step fully inside into a textured world of borders breached, lands left behind, new territories discovered, families remembered, and vistas uncovered. These stories cross and criss-cross the world, making it tiny and epic at the same time. Dublin, Philadelphia, Maine, Sri Lanka, New York, they are all here, and we, as readers, are all there. Ru Freeman captures the moment when the thorn enters the skin, and then she leads us forward towards healing. A great collection from one of the best and most necessary voices of our times.

Author Blurb Mary South, author of You Will Never Be Forgotten
These deftly controlled stories almost prickle the skin with their secrets, with the shame and longing and injustice, both personal and structural, that is revealed. But they also contain an exhilarating beauty, what feels like the charged breath of life. Sleeping Alone is a collection that left me awestruck and also immediately wanting to go back and reread it for the depths I knew I had barely begun to find within its pages. Ru Freeman is an author of rare genius.

Author Blurb Tania James, author of The Tusk That Did the Damage
A collection of marvels. Every story of Sleeping Alone feels vivid and intimate, boldly mining the complicated intersections between the global and the local in exquisite prose. Freeman is a writer of remarkable talent and ferocity, and it's breathtaking to see her working at the height of her powers.

Reader Reviews

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Beyond the Book

The Swastika Before and After Nazism

Reproduction of the Swastika Stone, a stone carving of a swastika-like symbol with rounded, petal-like edges, Ilkley (England) Ru Freeman uses the swastika symbol outside of its prevailing cultural narrative in the landscape of Sleeping Alone's "The Wake," a story about a cult leader who believes he is an incarnation of Christ. He spends his last days in a modest New York City apartment with an ordinary family, in a room called "the Swastika Room." Freeman chooses to represent the swastika here as a symbol consistent with its religious roots, which may come as a jolt, as it is mostly known as a sign of hate used by the Nazis.

Centuries before Adolf Hitler's brutal reign, the swastika was already a popular symbol. Versions of it have been found stamped on Asian and European pottery, vases, textiles and sculptures. It has also been used in artwork by cultures ...

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