Review: ‘Noontide Toll,’ by Romesh Gunesekera


romesh_gunesekeraThis collection of linked stories, set in post-civil-war, post-tsunami Sri Lanka, is narrated by a retired clerk who has sunk his savings into a minibus and now hires himself out as a driver. Each story traces a different journey, with passengers that include three Russians on their way to a new luxury spa; a Roman Catholic priest and his acolyte pursuing a kind of detective mission; a Czech couple who share a walk on a beach with a night watchman whose entire family perished, along with more than 30,000 other Sri Lankans, in the 2004 tsunami; a delegation of Chinese businessmen appraising vast “junk fields” of military scrap; and a Sri Lankan general (also a renowned ballroom dancer) en route to a meeting with a woman whose family he has all but destroyed. The 14 stories in “Noontide Toll” function like the stages of a tour through a place that’s trying to emerge from the ruins, yet is still “trapped by the past despite the prospects ahead.”

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