Life on a Dead-End Lane
R. Nithya
ON SAL MAL LANE by Ru Freeman Penguin Books, Delhi, 2014, 388 pp., 499
October 2014, volume 38, No 10

A good story will always move you regardless of anything. On Sal Mal Lane by Ru Freeman makes no demand of its readers being associated with one or the other identity unlike the characters in the book. It doesn’t make the readers take sides, which is why it is so easy to let oneself be moved by it.

The story set in Sri Lanka from 1979 to 1983, the years leading up to the Civil War, gives us a look into the lives of the people who live on Sal Mal Lane and are unaware or if aware, who cannot fathom how their lives would change.

The story begins with the Heraths moving into the one empty house on the Sal Mal Lane and inviting the curiosity of the others just as a new neighbour always does. The four Herath children—Suren, Rashmi, Nihil and the youngest Devi—could very well be considered the protagonists around whom most of the action on the lane revolves. It is they, their piano classes, their kite flying, their cricket matches on the lane, and their friendships with the old and the young alike that make Sal Mal Lane what any neighbour-hood with children would look like—ordinary and alive.

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