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Reviews of Hungry Ghosts by Kevin Hosein

Hungry Ghosts

A Novel

by Kevin Jared Hosein

Hungry Ghosts by Kevin Jared Hosein X
Hungry Ghosts by Kevin Jared Hosein
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • First Published:
    Feb 2023, 336 pages

    Paperback:
    Feb 2024, 384 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Jane McCormack
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About this Book

Book Summary

From an unforgettable new voice in Caribbean literature, a sweeping story of two families colliding in 1940s Trinidad - and a chilling mystery that shows how interconnected their lives truly are.

Trinidad in the 1940s, nearing the end of American occupation and British colonialism. On a hill overlooking Bell Village sits the Changoor farm, where Dalton and Marlee Changoor live in luxury unrecognizable to those who reside in the farm's shadow. Down below is the Barrack, a ramshackle building of wood and tin, divided into rooms occupied by whole families. Among these families are the Saroops—Hans, Shweta, and their son, Krishna, all three born of the barracks. Theirs are hard lives of backbreaking work, grinding poverty, devotion to faith, and a battle against nature and a social structure designed to keep them where they are.

But when Dalton goes missing and Marlee's safety is compromised, farmhand Hans is lured by the promise of a handsome stipend to move to the farm as a watchman. As the mystery of Dalton's disappearance unfolds, the lives of the wealthy couple and those who live in the barracks below become insidiously entwined, their community changed forever and in shocking ways.

A searing and singular novel of religion, class, family, and historical violence, and rooted in Trinidad's wild pastoral landscape and inspired by oral storytelling traditions, Hungry Ghosts is deeply resonant of its time and place while evoking the roots and ripple effects of generational trauma and linked histories; the lingering resentments, sacrifices, and longings that alter destinies; and the consequences of powerlessness. Lyrically told and rendered with harrowing beauty, Hungry Ghosts is a stunning piece of storytelling and an affecting mystery, from a blazingly talented writer.

I
A Gate to Hell

Sometime in the 1940s, Trinidad

Four boys ventured to the river to perform a blood oath. Two brothers and two cousins. The brothers were twins, both fifteen; the cousins, fourteen and thirteen. They passed around a boning knife, making clean cuts across their palms. The blood bubbled to the surface like their veins were boiling. They let the blood drip into a stolen bottle of cow's milk. They drank, passing the bottle around until all was gone. Then they hugged each other, a minute at a time, holding on tight as if the world were ending. When it was over, the rains came down so hard that the four boys thought the clouds would fall as well. The force of the water stung the wounds and washed them clean.

'Gonna have nothin more important than this,' the twins told the cousins.

The older brother christened their union with a name: Corbeau, for the large vulture, a carrion feeder, a bird that stays alive by seeking the dead.

Why not an ibis? Or a kingfisher? Or a peacock?

...

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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

Hosein's characters warrant investment, as their hopes and fears strike a chord. Yet a looming cloud of violence and narcissism pervades the island, prompting the reader's urge to scream a warning to the imperiled characters or to hold their breath, hoping against the odds that somehow the goodness of humanity will prevail. Sadly, it rarely does. Hungry Ghosts is an intriguing read that forces us to confront the harsh realities of life and its varying juxtapositions of violence and beauty, love and hate, faith and despair...continued

Full Review (598 words)

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(Reviewed by Jane McCormack).

Media Reviews

The Times (UK)
What luscious, troubling, shimmering cloth Hosein has spun…Hungry Ghosts reads like a Greek tragedy relocated to a gothic Caribbean setting worthy of Jean Rhys — a story of cursed families and inherited vengeance, inexplicable horrors and impossible dreams and a country haunted, as Hosein reminds us, by the ghosts of the indentured…Hosein gives us no easy answers in this sumptuous, brilliantly written novel.

Financial Times (UK)
Rich in vocabulary and description, the novel situates characters in a meticulously detailed setting that evokes Middlemarch, with a similar empathy for human struggle... In scope and style, it's not far off a masterpiece.

Booklist (starred review)
Hosein...sensitively teases apart the tangled web of class and religion and emphasizes the hard choices the powerless routinely live with.

Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
A vibrant portrait...Hosein evokes all this in rich, visceral language...His story, often brutal, ultimately tragic, is nevertheless lit by a wide embrace reaching beyond place and people to the bedrock...Immersive, persuasive: an elemental 'portal to the Caribbean' delivered in a distinctive voice.

Library Journal
[A] family drama and an acute study of social structure...A highly recommended story of family and class divides that will break readers' hearts.

Publishers Weekly
[A] thorny literary thriller...Hosein imbues the proceedings with the swelter of subtropical noir...Patient readers will find plenty of rewards in this complex tale.

Author Blurb Bernardine Evaristo, author of Girl, Woman, Other
Hungry Ghosts is an astonishing book—linguistically gorgeous, narratively propulsive, and psychologically profound.

Author Blurb Daisy Johnson, author of Sisters and Everything Under
Hungry Ghosts is beautiful, biblical, vast in scope and power, ringing with an energy that blasts from the intricate language. Hosein is a new giant of fiction.

Author Blurb Hilary Mantel
This is a deeply impressive book, and I think an important one. Its intensity, its narrative attack, the fascinations of its era and setting, make it impossible to tear the attention away. Energy and inventiveness distinguish every page.

Reader Reviews

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Beyond the Book

Hungry Ghosts in Art and Culture

Kevin Jared Hosein's title Hungry Ghosts has its origin in Taoism, Hinduism and Buddhism. According to the Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism, hungry ghost, or preta "literally means 'one who has gone away from here' and is used to indicate the disembodied spirit of a dead person, especially during the first ten days after death." The word is also used to refer to a ghost, generally the spirit of a great sinner, whose unfulfilled desire or hunger compels it to wander in search of satiety, straddling the worlds of the living and the dead.

Illustration from the Bakemono zukushi scroll, 18th or 19th century JapanHungry ghosts have been portrayed in various artworks, often depicted with tiny mouths and throats and the swollen bellies of the starving, meaning they can never consume enough to ...

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