When I first started reading, “Homesick” by Roshi Fernando, it came to be like any other book of displaced families and forgotten voices. Of the second generation and third generations, wanting to search themselves and what they stand for. However, though the book did run on these lines, it had a different voice to it.
Homesick is a book of many layers and each layer has a unique and original voice. When I say layers, I but obviously mean the inter-connected stories and at the same time, there is something that tugs at the heartstrings that gives the book the enrichment and understanding it deserves.
Homesick is a collection of seventeen stories – telling the tales of SriLankan immigrants carving out new lives in sometimes warm and a sometimes hostile Britain. The narrative is cohesive and sticks to the larger framework of the book – of alienation and getting to know the new ways of living. At the same time it is contemporary (the issue will always be at hand, no matter what nationality) and complex, being careful about the emotions and voices of characters. There is a silent boy who experiences life through Charlie Chaplin, a man stuck in the aftermath of a war, to a family’s life destroyed by a child’s murder, each story comes together and linked by the theme of cultural displacement and its trauma, so to say.
Roshi Fernando’s writing is crisp and razor-sharp. She does not sugar-coat emotions, though there are moments in the book when she had me laughing or at least smiling at the situation. There is an ambience created by the writer that lingers in the readers’ heads long after one has finished the book. The cast of characters is intricate and appear in more than one story, unraveling themselves, little by little; getting the reader familiar and that is what I love about interconnected stories. The transitions are handled with ease, from one story to another and that is what also makes the book so strong. The questions of identity and belief are still left unanswered, which in a way works to the book’s advantage. All in all, Homesick is an evocative study of what home means and sometimes what is takes to create a new one.