Atmospheric, immersive, un-put-down-able, truly impressive storytelling from a Caribbean voice you will want to hear from again…and again….
Hungry Ghosts opens with four boys doing a blood pact that will make them brothers for the rest of their lives. Do they know what this pact means? How will it impact their individual lives? That is exactly what we find out in this book.
Set on the island of Trinidad and Tobago in the 1940s we are taken to the Barrack, a community that lives in poverty, no running water barely able to make ends meet but proud people. Overlooking Barrack is the Changoor Farm where Marlee and her husband, Dalton lives in a big house that is taken care of by three men. Dalton is known by the community to have a lot money but no one knows where it comes from. Marlee, lives in the house and hardly interacts with anyone from the community so rumours are made up about her. One day Marlee wakes up and her husband is nowhere to be found. She starts getting messages and death threats. In an effort to protect herself, she hires one of the men from the Barrack to be a guard at the house until her husband “comes back home”. Hans, the new watchman for Marlee is faced with a lot of choices- take the job in order to make enough to get his family out of the Barrack, or continue to live simple life… his choice leads to immeasurable consequences.
A corbeau will always be a corbeau, hated by the world that it will eventually eat…
Kevin Jared Hosein is an expert storyteller, how he is able to tell nuanced story rich with history, and explores classism, racism, religion, traditions, jealousy, love and violence is truly magical. Hungry Ghost is rich in atmosphere, you feel like you are transported to Barrack and immersed into the lives of the people there. You get so invested in how the story will go and that all goes back to Hosein’s writing. The writing in this book is absolutely impeccable, the characters’ stories are told with care and deeply tender. You feel for each character and you recognize that they are each going through so much and I loved that the author made them characters we could relate to.
There is a lot of strong themes happening in the book and generally that is hard for an author to explore each and do it justice but Hosein was able to do it expertly. We had coming-of-age, love, poverty, classism, religion and racism well explored- each leaving you with food for thought. I also loved how truly authentic the book felt- you were taken to the island of Trinidad and Tobago during the 1940s and you feel that through the writing and research done.
In the author’s note he said, “Fifteen years ago, my own stories were set in places I had never visited… The few Trinidadian stories I had written felt painstaking and derivative, embarrassingly littered with footnotes attempting to explain what is a corbeau… I wanted to write a book that not only electrified but was also more than its plotline and its characters- that could be a portal to the Caribbean, even at such a dark time of Trinidadian history.”
I truly cannot recommend this book enough. Please read.