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On Sal Mal Lane

Written by Ru Freeman

  • 408 Pages
  • 9781770897205
  • FICTION / Literary



Publication Date April 29, 2013

One of Reader's Digest Best Summer Reads (US).

Set against the backdrop of the Sri Lankan civil war, Ru Freeman’s epic novel explores the lives of the diverse families that live on Sal Mal Lane and the heartbreaking ways this once harmonious community turns on one another with the country on the brink of war.

On the day the Herath family moves in, Sal Mal Lane is a quiet street, disturbed only by the cries of the children whose triumphs and tragedies sustain the families that live there. As each neighbour adapts to the newcomers in different ways, the children fill their days with cricket matches, romantic crushes, and small rivalries.

But when the tides of civil war begin to turn towards the neighbourhood, their differences ignite in ways no one could have imagined. As the stability of their neighborhood is threatened by clashing political beliefs and prejudices, the children of the community are forced to watch their parents and friends turn against one another. Seen through the children's eyes, the events on Sal Mal Lane come to mirror the course of modern Sri Lanka at its most violent and volatile.

A powerful, evocative work, On Sal Mal Lane masterfully illuminates the origins of this war and explores the lengths family will go to protect one another.


Ru Freeman
Ru Freeman was born into a family of writers in Colombo, Sri Lanka. She attended Bates College in Maine and completed her Masters in Labour Relations at the University of Colombo, and worked in the field of American and international humanitarian assistance and workers' rights. Her debut novel, A Disobedient Girl, was longlisted for the DSC South Asian Literacy Prize. She lives in Bala Cynwyd, Pennsylvania.


"Lovingly written, historically rich and compassionate to all sides of the turmoil." Kirkus Reviews

"…with prose both lingering and breathtaking – the children, even the lane’s bully who could have been different with just the occasional kindness, will charm you, tease you, play with you, and when they leave you, they’ll shatter your heart." BookDragon, book review blog produced by the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center (APAC)

"By the time Freeman’s characters are finally tested, some found wanting, some proving to be caring neighbours after all, the reader is thoroughly invested in the fate of all the residents on Sal Mal Lane." Montreal Gazette

"Ru Freeman is a tender-hearted fireball." The Millions

"There is something positively Russian in the feel of this book – in its full-bodied evocation of domestic lives...which, beyond logic and any ability I might have to convey it, draw us in almost hypnotically." Globe and Mail

"It is the Heraths, and especially their children — Suren, Rashmi, Nihil and little Devi — who are at the heart of this generous story…They are wondrous to behold, with their intelligence, imagination and innocence. I don’t know that I’ve seen children more opulently depicted in fiction since Dickens." The New York Times